R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
pure This astonishing film looks at the relationship between a boy and his mother. The setting is the usual working class London estate, overrun by drugs and crime. But the film rises far above average with superior writing, directing and acting. Paul (Eden) is only 10, yet he has to take care of his little brother (Hunter) and his constantly sick mother (Parker). Over the course of the film, Paul learns that the medicine he prepares for his mum is actually heroin; she's a junkie, kept in her habit by his "uncle" (Wenham), who's actually a pimp/dealer. Unsure of the solutions offered by his stern grandmother (McEwan), a pushy social worker (Ashfield) and rather scary cop (Lewis), Paul turns to a kind waitress (Knightley) for help.

While the setting itself seems rather over-familiar, complete with the working-class East London dialect, the plot itself isn't remotely run-of-the-mill. MacKinnon directs with insight and a solid sense of story and characters, always keeping to Paul's point of view, which makes the film powerfully involving. Eden is a real find as Paul; one of the finest child actors in recent memory, there's not a false moment in his performance. Parker gives yet another wrenching turn, pouring her soul into the role without getting swamped in it. And Wenham provides a nice counterpoint, never resorting to movie-villain cliches. Amazingly, the entire film stays grounded in reality, never descending into a grueling drug odyssey. It's pretty horrible, but never horrific. The situation is impossible, but there are ways to fight it. There's hope, but no easy answers. This is extremely clever filmmaking, using independent film sensibilities to stay within the story and be true to the characters--intimate and focused, funny and touching, entertaining and very, very telling.

cert 18 themes, drugs, violence, language 24.Oct.02 lff

dir Gillies MacKinnon
scr Alison Hume
with Molly Parker, Harry Eden, David Wenham, Keira Knightley, Geraldine McEwan, Gary Lewis, Kate Ashfield, Karl Johnson, Nitin Ganatra, Vinni Hunter, Marsha Thomason, Levi Hayes
release UK 2.May.03, US 3.Jun.05
02/UK 1h36

My mother's a heroin addict. Mel (Parker) prepares her next fix...


wenham eden knightley

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... pure "Set in the West Ham area of London, this is a gritty exploration of many issues asociated with heroin use as seen through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy. Harry Eden's portrayal of Paul is a revelation. Rarely has the whole range of human emotions been portrayed so effectively by such a young actor wise before his years. The director and casting agent are to be congratulated on discovering such a raw and latent talent. It is sad that with the classification (18) and limited availability in cinemas that many will miss out on seeeing this film. If you do manage to track it down be prepared for a rollercoaster experience and don't forget to take your Kleenex!" --Roger Gaitley, Welwyn Garden City, England 11.May.03
2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall