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dir Derrick Borte
scr Matthew Brown
prd Sofia Sondervan, Christine Vachon, Tom Butterfield
with Daniel Huttlestone, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Dougray Scott, Natascha McElhone, Nell Williams, Anya McKenna-Bruce, Tom Hughes, Kerry Howard, Yasmine Akram, Samuel Robertson, Jeff Leach, Samuel Fava
release US 7.Oct.16, UK 26.Dec.16
I fought the law: Huttlestone and Williams
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Bright and full of youthful attitude, this British period drama has the authentic ring of a biographical memoir, packed with unexpected details and plot turns that are never formulaic. The film is also infused with the various musical styles of the day, and even more importantly with layers of thematic energy.
In suburban 1978 London, 14-year-old Shay (Huttlestone) feels trapped taking care of his over-serious single dad Nick (Scott) and his little sister Alice (McKenna-Bruce). On a train into the city, cool girl Vivian (Williams) talks him into coming along to see The Clash in concert, and he dives headlong into the punk scene. When Nick is injured at work and unable to pay the bills, Shay goes in search of their free-spirited mum Sandrine (McElhone), but she isn't much help. Then he has a chance encounter with Clash frontman Joe Strummer (Meyers).
Director Borte creates a vivid sense of late-70s Britain, with lively clashes between subcultures, including skinheads shouting slogans on the street corners and Thatcherite mayhem on the telly. There are some far-fetched sequences along the way, most notably a witty, fortuitous one in which Shay borrows his dad's black cab. Otherwise, scenes are set with understated authenticity, performed with an enjoyably scruffy edge and augmented with a clever use of archive footage.
Huttlestone (who made such a memorable debut in Les Miserables) is a solid presence at the film's centre, a teen trying to find his own voice in the world. The performance is resourceful and open-handed, which makes Shay very easy to identify with. His growing friendship with Williams' Vivian is enjoyable, as is his banter with McKenna-Bruce's sparky young Alice and the artistic connection with Meyers' Strummer. And the musicality of the characters builds a superbly eclectic sense of both the period and the importance of music in everyday life.
The songs along the way range from head-banging to sweetly emotional, as the story shifts from their quiet suburban town to a much more colourful city-centre squat. This is a solid little film, with a superbly involving story and a fresh young cast. The plot could perhaps be seen as encouraging kids to indulge in some reckless anarchy, but this is actually a cry for free-thinking and independence from the status quo. And the big finale can't help but leave a smile on your face.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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