Mischief Night
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Penny Woolcock
with Kelli Hollis, Ramon Tikaram, Christopher Simpson, Michael Taylor, Qasim Akhtar, Holly Kenny, Sarah Byrne, Gwyne Hollis, Jake Hayward, James Foster, Katherine Kelly, Jameal Shaikh
release UK 3.Nov.06
06/UK FilmFour 1h33

Keep it together: Kelli Hollis

London Film Fest

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Mischief Night Scruffy and rambunctious, this lively film takes on the personality of its characters as it carries us through a week in a rough, working class Leeds neighbourhood leading up to a night of practical jokes, fireworks and general mischief.

Tina (Kelli Hollis) is trying to hold her fractured family together. Eldest son Tyler (Taylor) wants to do something with himself, and decides to follow in the tracks of his drug kingpin granddad (Gwyne Hollis) rather than his lovelorn father (Foster). Daughter Kimberley (Kenny) wants to find out who her dad is, with the help of a friend (Akhtar) who's beholden to another local dealer (Simpson). And youngest son Macauley (Hayward) is running with his own gang, taunting the creepy residents of a notorious row of houses. Meanwhile, Tina's old flame (Tikaram) suddenly reappears--with his arranged bride.

Essentially, the film follows these two families, one Anglo and one Pakistani, as a kind of parallel illustration of a segregated society that merges into one in the most natural ways imaginable--for love, to face an enemy with unity, to find purpose in life. And the way writer-director Woolcock grapples directly with sociological issues is truly remarkable. Drugs, crime, broken families and kids on the loose are accepted, everyday aspects of life here (sex is literally left out of the picture).

It's this serious subtext that makes the film well worth seeing. Otherwise, it's a gently loping comedy that's rather goofy and corny. Some of the set-pieces don't work at all, while others leave a sour taste in the mouth. On the other hand, the sequences set in the mosque are a bracingly honest blend of hilarious humour, lurking violence and thoughtful debate.

At times we wonder if it'll ever come together at all. There are so many characters and subplots that the film feels out of control, darting all over the place as mischief night approaches. But Woolcock cleverly blends inane practical jokes with edgy drama to bring it into focus. Not everything dovetails, and a couple of things are tasteless or ill-judged. But it's still a remarkably truthful--and hopeful--portrayal of ethnic Britain.

cert 15 themes, language, drugs, violence 1.Aug.06

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2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall