REVIEW: Starred Up (2013)


Reviewed by Rob Munday

With this title and a lead character called Eric Love you might guess that this was a tale of a wannabe pop singer or perhaps a trainee accountant who dreams of a more glamorous life – you’d be wrong. Starred Up is a prison drama that hits you right between the eyes with a visceral power not seen since the days of Alan Clarke.

This Eric Love is a violent criminal who despite his tender years has been ‘starred up’ and placed in an adult jail. There’s no doubt that Eric is a dangerous man and early on this film plays like a straight version of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson. However, this doesn’t last, and Starred Up develops into a far more real and involving story.

The film opens with Eric’s inception into the prison, a dehumanising series of procedures, before he’s banged up in his cell. Eric has to find his way in this intimidating world with it’s own unwritten rules and alliances.

starred-up-bgThrowing a spanner in the works is the presence of one old lag called Neville (Ben Mendelsohn) who just happens to be Eric’s dad. Nev is an intense presence who can flip without warning between concern and intimidation. Mendelsohn puts in a characteristically captivating performance confirming him as one of the finest screen actors working today.

06-STARRED UP_Publicity Still 4 by Aidan Monaghan_0The camera takes the role of another prisoner. It observes the rivalries and unspoken communications, it sees Eric’s fear and anger, and it follows as Eric bowls down the walkways like another wounded dog in this giant kennel. There’s a growing sense that Eric and the other inmates are caged animals with the Victorian surroundings and harsh sound effects adding to the feeling of brutalisation. What this film does, with Eric as our guide, is dismantle the prison system piece by piece.

starred-up-bg-4In many ways it is a standard prison drama featuring violence, the prison ‘Daddy’, drugs, corruption, cigarettes, the childlike hierarchy of treats (a Mars Bar is near the top), and the liberal volunteer (Rupert Friend) trying to make a difference. But there are vital differences: Former prison worker and first-time writer Jonathan Asser has written a script dripping in authenticity to rise above the usual prison clichés. This is aided by a uniformly strong cast and an on-form director. Here David Mackenzie realises the promise he had shown with previous films such as Hallam Foe and Young Adam to establish himself as a major British director.

At the heart of it all is Jack O’Connell as Eric with a performance of raw truthfulness. As with Tim Roth’s volatile Trevor in Alan Clarke’s Made in Britain the more we watch Eric the more we feel for him and the more we doubt the system he has become a part of.

'A hint of the young Malcolm McDowell': Jack O'Connell as Eric in Starred Up.It’s a hard knock life but Starred Up shows that with vitality, humour and an unflinching eye it can be unmissable cinema. Critics and audiences went mad for A Prophet – this is better.


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Staff A-Z of Films… F is F-f-for (Pt. 3):


freaks-posterF for Freaks (1932)

Based on the short story ‘Spurs’ by Clarence Aaron “Tod” Robbins, Browning’s ‘Freaks’ is set at a sideshow and is a story of unrequited love, honour, discrimination, and revenge. Hans (Harry Earles – The Wizard of Oz), a midget, recently rich through inheritance, is seduced by the Circus’ gold-digging trapeze artist, Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova – The Man Who Laughs). With the help of the show’s strong man, Hercules (Henry victor), Cleopatra plots to marry and kill Hans for his fortune, underestimating the strength of the ‘code of the freaks’ and their familial bond.

“We accept you, one of us! Gooble Gobble!”

The plot may sound quite familiar, it is an age-old, love-triangle tale. However, it is the setting and supporting cast that makes “Freaks” so distinguished. Unlike many of today’s films in which we have 5-6 foot tall actors portraying 3-4 foot tall characters, ‘Freaks’ the pre-CGI horror film had its titular heroes played by bona fide stars of the American sideshow and circus industries.

tumblr_l7vzslZ4Pq1qbbjxvo1_500In 1896 a 16-year-old Tod Browning ran away from his well off family in Kentucky, to pursue one of his life long fascinations, the circus. He travelled for many years with various sideshows and carnivals featuring as a Talker for ‘The Wild Man of Borneo’, as a clown for the Ringling Brothers Circus and performed as ‘The Living Corpse’ in a live burial act. In Vaudeville theatre he worked as clown, actor, dancer and magician, and in New York City he was the director of a variety theatre where he met fellow Louisvillian W. D. Griffith. Browning’s directorial carrier evolved into silent cinema throughout which he worked frequently with horror legend, Lon Chaney. In 1929 he directed his first talkie The Thirteenth Chair with Bela Legosi, a partnership that only two years later would lead to the immortal Dracula.

Browning’s successful yet, oftentimes tumultuous career in the horror genre was brought to a rapid halt after the release of Freaks, only making four more pictures before leaving the director’s chair altogether. Now considered a milestone in cinema, this film is also one of history’s most controversial features. From the first test screenings, in which one lady claimed it to have caused her miscarriage through shock, until today, this pre-code horror has continued to maintain its dangerous reputation. Soon after production, Freaks was reduced from its 90 minute running time to just 64 minutes (the cut footage is now considered to be lost), a happier ending was clumsily added as ordered by MGM studios and it wasn’t until 1963 that the UK finally lifted it’s 30 year ban on the film.

tumblr_m69fvbVGMX1qbbjxvo1_500In general the film presents the ‘freaks’ as honourable kindly characters, whilst the ‘normals’ come across as shameless and a-moral. However, no individual is presented so simply. For example, as Hans’ infatuation for Cleopatra increases, his consideration for his fiancée Frida is almost entirely neglected.  Meanwhile, of the two good ‘normals’ in the film, Phroso and Venus, who are kind to the ‘freaks’, Phroso, has his morally grey areas with regards to his attitude to women: “You dames is all alike. Yer sharp-shootin’, yer cheap, and how you squeal when you get what’s coming to ya”.
After the initially shock-inducing introduction to some of the ‘freaks’, where those who call them “monsters” are invited to see them as the “children” they are, the film plays out as more of a drama than a horror film. Browning elegantly turns from the exploitative and sensationalist nature of the side-show industry, to look at the every day mundanities of the ‘Freaks’ Lives. Once we have become accustomed to their way of life, and have learnt to distinguish the performers by their personalities and not just their abnormalities, Browning reverts to utilising sensationalism once again. The infamous scene in the woods helps establish Freaks as one of the greatest horror films of its time. This visually powerful sequence, in which a host of the ‘freaks’ crawl to attack, is enhanced by the erratic dance of storm-induced light and shadows, with beautiful yet hauntingly monstrous results.

002As controversial as it has been over the years, Freaks is a fascinating study of the sideshow world, one all too seldom looked at with such honourable intentions as Browning clearly held. Freaks may not be considered a scary horror film by today’s high-definition, gore-fest standards but it is horrifying in the true sense of the word, and yet also tender, funny, and quite unforgettable.

Interesting facts:
After Freaks was withdrawn and shelved by MGM, the notorious American director and producer of exploitation films, Dwain Ester, bought the rights at low-cost and travelled the country showing it under titles “Forbidden Love” and “Nature’s Mistakes”.

***with spoiler***

Olga Baclanova’s bird suit worn near the end of the film was originally designed by Lon Chaney, but he unfortunately died before being able to put it to use. It was kept in an MGM store cupboard for years before Browning brought it out.



ku-xlargeF is for A Field in England (2013)

A psychedelic, black and white, British civil war movie – what more do you want?
Ben Wheatley has put his stamp on the gangster film (Down Terrace), hit man movie (Kill List), and caravan comedy killer flick (Sightseers). Here set out to revive the much missed midnight movie.
With visuals that mix Jodorowsky with Sergio Leone and a script by Amy Jump that feels completely authentic but also fresh and alive, Wheatley takes us down a psychological rabbit hole into a world of alchemy and spiritual hoodoo. The trademark intensity of Reece Shearsmith will sear into the mind, Michael Smiley intimidates with venomous vigour and you’ll find yourself sucked into a world out of kilter.
a-field-in-england-2013-001-man-in-wheat-field_1000x750Does it all make sense? I’m not sure, but it’s trip you won’t forget in a hurry.


Review: Back to the Garden (2013)

Back to the Garden – Reviewed by Rob Munday

It’s a year since the death of Ivan, an inspirational theatre director, and we follow a group of his close friends who come together to celebrate his memory.

Back to the Garden is the final part in Jon Sanders loose trilogy exploring love and death with each film shot on a taut shoestring budget and set in the Kent countryside. With protagonists in their 60s the past weighs heavy: past indiscretions, words gone unsaid, emotions buried under the weight of time.

This film opens with two enigmatic scenes: A woman makes tea on a boat. She turns to someone unseen and is pleased, but something feels off – is he really there? Then we cut to see a man emerging from deep fog and looking out in despair as a ghostly woman drifts past in a boat. Is she dead or is it his love for her that is dead? These two ghosts haunt Back to the Garden: a dead man whose absence still hurts and the shell of a marriage hollowed out by infidelity and ill communication.

Still 2This marriage belongs to Julia (Anna Mottram) and her actor husband Jack (Bob Goody). Jack has the conflict of many talented actors, his wit and charisma weighed down by nerves and insecurity. Jack has played away in the past, taking advantage of an actors life, but this time it’s serious. With the lady in question, Stella, present at this gathering along with his wife and the trauma of an absent friend, Jack finds himself coming apart at the seams. Bob Goody, who featured in Sanders’ previous films, is excellent. At once endearing and heartbreaking, his clowning persona only makes his anguish more painful.

Along with Jack and Julia the two other couples allow us to observe relationships from different perspectives. Maxine and Ed are young lovers at the end of an affair and provide the film with an important kick of life. They show the beauty and pull of misplaced love in contrast to Jack’s forlorn fawning. And then there is Maggie, a woman adrift, still in a couple but with Ivan’s absence robbing her of purpose.

P1030640As with the previous films in the trilogy (Low Tide and Late September), Back to the Garden is made using long master shots and improvised dialogue. There is a tension between these two elements with the static framing restricting the actors’ movements while their tongues have free reign. Sometimes you crave the immediacy of the cut but Sanders approach can reveal pockets of truth and his unflinching eye means these characters are exposed to us. The improvisation can meander at times but when it does strike a chord there is genuine resonance.

This is the boldest and most effective of the trilogy. Visually a step up, the sharper imagery and stronger atmosphere is aided by a score from Douglas Finch that shimmers across the foggy landscapes.
With such big themes as love and death there are many clichés to avoid, Back to the Garden not only succeeds in finding the truth beneath the surface but has a quiet power that creeps up on you and leaves its own distinct memory behind.

‘Back to the Garden’ is released on 14 March at Curzon Mayfair.
See for details of other screenings.


liz poster

Mister John (2013)


Reviewed by Rob Munday.

How much do you know about the man in the street and what does he know of himself?

Mister John is the second feature film from Christine Molloy and Joe Lawler and confirms the promise of their debut feature Helen. Like Helen the story concerns the fluid nature of identity and the unknowable in all of us.

Gerry (Aidan Gillen) travels to Singapore in the aftermath of his brother’s death. The death is unexplained and Gerry seems shell-shocked, going through the motions of fulfilling his family duties but never quite engaging. His brother owned an Irish bar that also acted as a place for men to meet prostitutes. The brother’s local wife now calls on Gerry to help her re-start the business and collect old debts. Gerry, a good but conflicted man, finds himself inexorably drifting into his brother’s world, a place very different to that which Gerry has left behind.

1185226_1394216350806650_719532364_nAidan Gillen mesmerises as Gerry. For much of the film he says nothing and yet his face is constantly shifting, making his character not merely blank but fascinating. You feel for him while also questioning his motives and Gillen’s gripping performance lies at the heart of this films success.

The work of Molloy and Lawler is rigorous and subtle but always engaging. We feel drawn into this unfamiliar world with Gerry, entranced by its landscapes. Theirs is a poetic approach to storytelling, stripped down to allow room for atmosphere and character to breath. When it comes, the music is bold, stirring but never pompous. It bursts with emotion, becoming the outlet for Gerry’s internal conflicts. As the film progresses we get glimpses into Gerry’s home life and find ourselves twisted into his fate. Events fall in on each other, all details ring true. The film is a puzzle but not puzzling, enigmatic but never dull.

1235551_1394213990806886_641001509_nYou may site Lynch, Antonioni, even Kubrick as influences here but Molloy and Lawler have created a world very much their own. This is a cinema of questions and Mister John is a film that demands attention.

995222_1418366121725006_95996022_nReview originally published on Front Row Reviews.

Mister John is out on DVD now.

O So Topical: London On Film

From Notting Hill to the far-flung reaches of Westbourne Park and the darkest corners of Portobello – oh yes, the explorations of the Notting Hill flaneur knows no bounds… And so, to tie-in with the Barbican’s film season, Urban Wandering, we have gathered together, from the far corners of our shop (through France and Germany; right at Gandolf; straight ahead and over the New Releases; a pit-stop at Ealing; left at Ryan Gosling; left again at F-For Fake and straight on to…), a selection of our top London-based films… (go on: stretch your legs – or, at the very least, your eyes):







London Nobody Knows 5 Hanbury Street














Villain small



by Dixie Turner

Film of the Day: Brighton Rock (1947)




Pinkie: Have you ever been in love?
Rose: Oh yes.
Pinkie: You would have been. You’re green. You don’t know what it’s all about. I’ve watched it. I know love.


Ida: Now listen, dear. I’m human, I’ve loved a boy or two in my time. It’s natural, like breathin. Not one of them’s worth it, let alone this fellow you’ve got hold of.


Pinkie: [in a recording booth, making a disc for the doting, oblivious Rose] You wanted a recording of my voice, well here it is. What you want me to say is, ‘I love you’. Well I don’t. I hate you, you little slut…


Small-town mobster, Pinkie Browne, comes unstuck when his path crosses that of ballsy ‘psychic’ and ‘actress’, Ida Arnold, who is determined to prove him a murderer…




Brighton Rock (2010)



Film of the Day: SIGHTSEERS (2012) – dir. Ben Wheatley



Tina: “Show me your world, Chris.”

Chris: “Well, I thought we’d start with Crich tram museum.”

Tina: “Great!”


Tina: “Dear Mum, Yorkshire is lovely. Not like you said at all; they can smile…”


Mum: “Murderer!”

Tina: “It was an accident, mum.”

Mum: “So were you.”


Tina: “I never thought about killing innocent people.”

Chris: “He’s not a person. He’s a Daily Mail reader.”

The Beauty of Lo-Fi: Ben Rivers’ Two Years At Sea

Beard horizontal, an old man lies in the undergrowth still and peaceful and waiting to one day be woken from his eternal slumber.

But we are far from the world of myths and legends and this man is not Merlin but Jake, a modern outsider given a gentle grandness by this striking debut feature.


This scene of Jake asleep is typical of a film that strives to find resonance within the everyday. Previously a subject of his short film This Is My Land, here Ben Rivers studies Jake as he lives in isolation, a hermit detached from society. As he moves through his tumbledown house and the surrounding forest we watch intently without the distraction of a narrator or any interaction from behind the camera to soften the experience.


A document that is hard to place in space or time the film feels more like a discovery dug up from the rubble of a long abandoned home. The lo-fi look is vital: the hand-processed black and white 16mm film stock gives the visuals a fuzzy energy.



The sound is also stripped of artifice so we become drawn to the miniscule. We hear the weather, the birds, the creaking of the beat-up machinery Jake uses. We become immersed and suddenly understand the cat that sits mesmerised as it watches the clanking washing machine.


A short feature composed of long takes Two Years At Sea does occasionally push its luck with its formal restraint but ultimately succeeds in taking us out of our comfort zone and into the elemental beauty of Jake’s surroundings.



Late September: review and interview with director Jon Sanders

By Rob Munday

Late September DVD Review:

The last few years have been an exciting time for British no-budget films. Amongst others Down Terrace, Skeletons, Treacle Jr and Black Pond have showcased directors creating work on their own terms and gaining distribution beyond the festival circuit.

Late September is the 2nd no-budget feature from Jon Sanders (director and co-writer) and Anna Mottram (co-writer and actress) and can stand beside this group as defiantly personal and original cinema.

This is a drama about relationships, how we control them and how they control us. It centres on the marriage of Ken (Richard Vanstone) and Gillian (Anna Mottram) as the cracks start to show.
The film takes place over 24 hours during the celebrations and aftermath of Ken’s 65th birthday. Ken and Gillian’s relationship is clearly strained; they appear as separate entities in their rambling house and garden, unable to sustain any harmony together. There is always the sense of emotions bubbling beneath the surface and the tension is sustained with long takes and strong acting throughout.

During one scene we are taken away from the intensity of the situation to watch a puppet show. As we focus in on this articulated wooden mannequin we slip out of reality, away from this small world, and into a dream that beautifully illustrates the fear of a life without love.
Accompanying this show is music played live by house guest Donald (the film’s composer Douglas Finch). His presence brings music into the narrative so whether it is the sound of the piano from another room, or from inside the house while we are outside, it holds an elusive power that resonates through the film.

This is a no-budget production but the limitations are used to enhance the drama. The film is made up of a series of long master shots, each scene captured in just one take. This may have saved time and money but it also emphasizes a sense of place and a deeper feeling for character. There is a harshness in the video image that can be alienating but as day turns to night the imagery becomes more subtle and illusive.

Late September could have been awful. With no budget there is nowhere to hide but the film succeeds because of its essential truth. With all dialogue improvised there was the possibility of actorly indulgence but there is subtlety in these exchanges and the performance of Bob Goody as Jim is particularly heart-rending. Late September is a refreshing blast of no-frills cinema whose focussed and deeply felt emotions will linger long after the credits roll.

This DVD includes ‘Actor in Search of a Character’ featuring Bob Goody reciting his own poem. With a welcome dose of wit and insight Goody gives us a glimpse into the filmmaking process behind Late September. There is also a booklet containing a director’s statement, stills, and an abridged version of the interview with Jon Sanders first featured on Front Row Reviews.

Interview with Jon Sanders:

Jon Sanders is a former editor and sound recordist who as director and co-writer (with Anna Mottram) has carved out a unique niche in British cinema. In his Belgrade Manifesto he talked about making films ‘Without Permission’, with his latest feature Late September now available on DVD Video City’s Rob Munday went and had a chat.

SPOILER ALERT – the following discussion reveals major plot details of Late September.

Rob Munday: The death of Jim (Bob Goody) in the film was a big surprise.
Did the concept for Late September come from this or the relationship of Ken and Gillian?

Jon Sanders: My first idea was Bob has got to commit suicide [laughs] – that was the first idea. Then the rest of it came, so that absolutely was central.

RM: Because all the scenes are improvised how do you go about putting together the script?

JS: For about two or three years I write notes in notebooks and I date them very precisely. I probably write the same old shit time and time again but you’re doing it from different angles every time, you see a film, you read a book, you have a conversation, and you slowly get together some form of idea. Then what I do is I go through those notebooks and put it all on little cards, [each card has] the ideas for scenes and the conceptual ideas and then I show Anna and she pulls it all together in quite a massive way.

RM: How have you found the contrast between working with a budget and on a no-budget shoot like this?

JS: The thing is that you hugely organise what you want to what you can have, in a way that you don’t on a feature film. On a feature if you want a house there you build a house there, if you want five horses you simply pay for them to turn up. But we can’t do any of that stuff, so we have to organise our film to what we have. So for instance I have a cousin with a boat, and I knew that from the word go, so essentially you think ‘Ok, how does that work?’ well I know exactly how that works, Bob dies on the goddamned boat [laughs]. Not only that, you have an actor who’s daughter is a fabulous puppeteer.

RM: At what point did the puppet scene come into the film?

JS: Quite early on. Early on I thought we’re gonna have a puppet scene. Interestingly enough my teacher was Thorold Dickinson who made The Queen Of Spades and Gaslight and in all those films he had theatre within the film. I had forgotten that, I went to see Gaslight after doing Painted Angels (which also had theatre in it) and I wanted to say ‘Thank You Thorold’. So I’m just copying him, I’m just copying my teacher.

RM: I remember thinking with your last film Low Tide there was a Bergman influence, what were your influences on Late September?

JS: On Low Tide, I realised I was remaking Cries and Whispers. On this film it was a strange mixture of Journey to Italy (the story of a marriage falling apart) and La Règle De Jeu, the ultimate country house film where everybody comes together, also I like the idea that there are other dramas going on. Everybody’s got a drama.

[Kenji] Mizoguchi is my god really, I think that Mizoguchi has been the one that has really got to me all these years, as a director of women and I’m in my way also a director of women. Mizoguchi developed a technique which was one scene one shot and he did two or three films [like this], I’ve seen The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums and it is just fucking staggering.

RM: Where do you want to go next, will you carry on with no-budget or would you like to return to the period drama of Painted Angels?

JS: I would very much like at some stage to do films that cost money, but what I would really like to do is to take everything that we’ve learnt as a group from these now three no-budget films in terms of organisation, camera moves, lighting or non-lighting etc and utilise that into costume drama (which I’d like to do again), but to do it much more cheaply because I’m now much better at storytelling. For instance, in Painted Angels we made a film that was two and half hours long and had to throw away an hour but now, on Late September, we shot every scene and we used every scene in the order we said we would.

RM: And would you still use improvisation?

JS: I don’t think we would, because if you’re doing historic films you’re using another language and I don’t think people could improvise in another language, it would just be insane.

But I don’t mind this whole business [no-budget filmmaking].
What really hit me very hard is that I wanted to start to make films where reverie and dream are involved. I realised I didn’t know how to do it because I was self-censoring myself because I thought actually there is no way they would ever give you the money to make a weird film like that with non-linear time. So I’ve actually self-censored myself, but the next one does have dreams in it and I thought – that’s what’s going on in my head.

If we want to make a film, as long as we can afford to do it we can fucking do it whatever – without permission, we can do whatever we want, nobody can say yes or no.

Gracing Our Shelves: Derek (2008)

A documentary on the late, great Derek Jarman (1942-1994), experimental film-maker and artist, a hugely influential and controversial figure in the British art, music and film scene. The documentary is by British artist Isaac Julien who curated the Derek Jarman retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery in 2008, and is written and narrated by long-time Jarman collaborator, friend and muse, Tilda Swinton.

Glitterbug (53 minute film posthumously compiled by friends from super-8  footage shot by Jarman over the course of many years, featuring music by Brian Eno):

Guardian article on the eve of the release of Derek:

Interview with Tilda Swinton on Derek Jarman from 400 Blows:

At Your Own Risk

posted by Dixie Turner

Proud To Have Recently Aquired/Ashamed To Not Have Already: Radio On


Radio On (1979)

Review by Rob Munday

British cinema in the 1970s was a strange place. While America rode its new wave of Scorsese, Coppola, Altman etc, in Britain a few mavericks toiled away often ending up oversees to fund their grand visions. Chris Petit stayed at home to make his debut film Radio On and it deserves to be seen alongside the best of Roeg, Boorman and Hodges.

The film opens with the cold grandeur of David Bowie’s Heroes. We move though a house. As we come to the bathroom the singing switches from English to German and we discover a dead body no longer aware of the blaring radio.

Here is the catalyst for our lead character Robert B to embark upon a very British road trip across the concrete rainbow of London’s Westway and out into the abyss of motorways and time-warp B roads.



This is the 1970’s in inky black and white. The often stunning images show a world in limbo seen through the windscreen, a land of sparse landscapes dominated by the road.

Robert B is a blank faced biscuit factory DJ (what a job!) who uses music to accompany him on this solitary journey. From Stiff Record’s lo-fi wonders Ian Dury and Wreckless Eric to the pulsating futurism of Kraftwerk, the soundtrack propels this film and expresses the emotions that this man hides so deep.



A co-production with Wim Wenders company Road Movies Filmproduktion, Radio On also features German characters but is most notable in its European approach to the story with a similar contemplative beauty to Wenders own Alice in the Cities. There are other filmic touchstones in the dreamlike drive from Solaris and the epic jukeboxes of Chungking Express but Radio On stands alone.

As Petit has said, this film is in part an ode to a Modernism ignored by British cinema. It now represents a one-off, a missed opportunity for homegrown film to embrace the director, to delve inside, and to look out on the lights of a sleeping city and see a sky full of stars.




New To Our Shelves:


Treacle Jr. (2010)

Reviewed by Rob Munday

Treacle Jr. is a lo-fi buddy movie about lonely people lost in the Big Smoke.

From tiny resources, writer/director Jamie Thraves has crafted a film with heart and humour that keeps a smile on its face despite everything.

Treacle Jr. follows Tom (Tom Fisher), a man numbed with depression as he leaves his suburban family life and stumbles into the city. This is a London without glamour, a town where the dispossessed have been abandoned to fight over pennies while those above carry on regardless.

The problem with having a depressive lead character is that there is always a danger that their malaise will seep into the film and infect the viewer with a similar fug.

Fortunately for Tom (and us) he is soon joined by his polar opposite: Aidan (Aidan Gillen). Aidan is a loon who locks onto the passive figure of Tom. In this no-budget Midnight Cowboy he is our Ratso Rizzo – although Tom is more John Doe than Joe Buck.



Aidan dresses like a 1980’s kid on a school trip: old skool baseball cap, badges on his jacket and a large rucksack clamped to his back. A speech impediment and lack of reticence make him an embarrassing presence for the subdued Tom.

But just as the film itself swerves away from grimness with subtlety and charm so Aidan steers Tom away from the abyss. However, Aidan’s life is far from simple as shown by the imposing aggression of his girlfriend Linda.

All three of these characters take a while to endear themselves. Like meeting someone new in reality these people can at first seem strangely opaque, blunt, or simply odd. But as we spend time with them we see the truth behind the facades. Gillen undoubtedly steals the show and Treacle Jr. belongs to the pure innocence of Aidan. Thraves has said that his catalyst was the image of a grinning man being punched in the face and still grinning through the blood. That image aptly sums up a movie that shows the harshness of the everyday and yet comes up roses.


Cool Britannia Part One: Lynne Ramsay

As you may know, the BFI are currently waving the flag in celebration of home-grown talent with their Made in Britain season. Amongst the films being shown are Lynne Ramsay’s 3 features as well as some of her shorts (films, not garments).

Glaswegian Ramsay has some pretty damning things to say about the British film industry including that it is inherently sexist and classist (see the link below –  an interview from October 2011 that Ramsay did for the Guardian), not that, sadly, that’s a surprise in any way. This makes it particularly pleasing to see the BFI showing the work of several female directors as part of this season, and it’s especially encouraging when you consider that their work has been amongst the very finest that Britain has seen in recent years. Despite Ramsay’s progress being slower than she’d like (3 feature films in 12 years – see interview for details on the Lonely Bones fiasco), the quality of her output has been exceptionally high:

We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

If you’ve only seen ‘Kevin’ then you’re missing out…


Morvern Callar (2002)

Morvern Callar is the story of a supermarket worker who after the suicide of her writer boyfriend passes the manuscript of his novel off as her own. On the money she gets given from the publishers, she and her best pal run off to Spain  to party and find a new life. Directed with incredible style, a fantastic cast (Samantha Morton is unnerving as the imperturbable Morvern) and a brilliant soundtrack, this was one of the stand-out films of the late-nighties.


Ratcatcher (1999)

Ratcatcher is set in ’70s Glasgow and centers around a young boy growing up on a dingy estate, shielding his mother from social services and dreaming of a proper home. A devastating accident whilst playing with a friend occurs early on and haunts the rest of the film. A poignant and hard-hitting debut.


The Guardian’s interview with Lynne Ramsay, October 2011:

60s Classics, New to Our Shelves…

Where Eagles Dare (1968)

Classic WW2 thriller, starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. Commandos must rescue an American general from an alpine fortress.


Funeral in Berlin (1966)

A spy-thriller. An ex-army corporal serves as a spy for Her Majesty rather than spending time behind bars… Back from the Ipcress File, Harry Palmer has a new assignment in Berlin.

This picture (even though it looks like it’s been drawn on a really hi-tech Etch A Sketch), or the poster above, would’ve made a great DVD cover. But instead, they gave us:

Looks like he’s really nervous about going for a slash. Rubbish.


New Releases: 02/04/12


Martin Scorsese, director of Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Goodfellas, etc,  directs this  cute, cuddly kids film. An adventure epic, full of mystery and magic and much-nominated in the way that films that cost so much often are, Hugo is  set in 1930’s Paris and stars more British actors than most British films. It’s a fun family film that all can enjoy. Or that the kids can enjoy, whilst the rest of us re-watch Taxi Driver just to re-assure ourselves that a nostalgia for past greatness is rarely misplaced. Starring Ben Kingsley (Gandhi), Christopher Lee (Wicker Man) and Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat). Cert. U



More squeaky rodents in hats and shades. We were worried the franchise had come to an end. But, no. Phew. Cert. U



Another serial killer is on the loose, but where is Sarah Lund? More importantly, where are her jumpers? With season 3 of The Killing on the way, the Danes have suddenly become synonymous with good  TV. Will this live up to the Killing and Borgen? Cert.15 Danish with English subs.



A sci-fi fantasy drama. The Life of Rhoda, a brilliant 17-year-old, collides with that of John and his family with devastating consequences. Meanwhile, it is discovered that there is a duplicate Earth in the solar system with people identical to ourselves living there. Rhoda wonders if her extra-terrestrial twin has made the same mistakes with her life as she has… Starring Brit Marling (Community) and William Mapother (In the Bedroom). Cert. 12



Not to be confused with the 1999 shark-thriller of the same name, this Deep Blue Sea is based on the 1952 play by Terrence Rattigan, and is directed by Terence Davies (House of Mirth, Of Time and the City). Set in 1950s Britain, it tells the story of the young wife of a high court judge who is caught in a dilemma between her stable yet sterile marriage and her passionate yet reckless affair with a young RAF pilot. Perhaps a few killer fish would liven things up? Starring Rachel Weisz (Constant Gardener) and Tom Hiddleston (Archipelago). Cert. 15



Documentary detailing the DIY culture of the late 1970s punk rock scene of New York, with particular reference to the independent filmmakers that were emerging from it and revelling in it. Featuring Steve Buscemi, Debbie Harry, Jim Jarmusch etc. Cert. E


ID : A :

A Danish thriller (see? they’re everywhere; who knew there were so many Danes before The Killing?) about a woman struggling with amnesia whilst also being pursued by mysterious individuals… Cert. 15.  Danish with English subs.



Suburban couple Mandy Moore (Saved!) and Martin Freeman (soon to be seen as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit) decide to spice up their marriage with a bit of ‘1940s-style dancing’… Also starring Melissa George (A Lonely Place to Die). Cert. 15



Actress Melanie (The Concert, Beginners) Laurent’s directorial debut. Two sisters, one of whom was adopted, have an inseparable bond until one falls in love, unbalancing their relationship. When tragedy strikes they must find a new way to live and love.



Nanni (The Caiman, Aprile, Dear Diary) Moretti’s latest farce tackles the idea of a reluctant Pope who suffers from anxiety in the face of his responsibilities. Cert. PG