NEDS – Review

Neds (2010) 

Directed by Peter Mullan. Starring Conor McCarronLinda CuthbertDavid McKayMarianna Palka

I don’t know much about Peter Mullan, but judging by his body of work, he must have had a seriously troubled childhood (to say the least), though he’s been reported saying that the film is “personal but not autobiographical”.

Neds is his third feature as a director, after Orphans (About four siblings who have to cope with the death of their mother) and The Magdalene Sisters (About young women suffering oppression and brutality at the hands of some over-zealous nuns). This one is essentially the story of teenage boy’s coming of age in the Glasgow of the 1970s and his descent from a potentially good boy to a ned

Neds is short for “Non-Educated Delinquents”  in Scotland. The stereotypical view of a ned is a white adolescent of working class background engaging in hooliganism, petty criminality, vandal behaviour, fighting, underage drinking, smoking and general anti-social behaviour

There are obvious comparisons with This is England by Shane Meadows but this time we are in Scotland. Incidentally, some people may find the thick accent in certain scenes a big obstacle. I heard that in some festivals the film was even shown with subtitles.

Right now the film is being pushed for various Awards here in the UK (BAFTAs and so on), so I came in expecting to like it quite a lot… And unfortunately that is always a recipe for disappointment.

NEDS is well shot with its grim look and the art direction seems to be spot on, setting up the 70s without overdoing it. It all looks and feels real.

The score of the film, mainly made up with low drones and moody strings, is pretty bland and forgettable and the incidental was often used in contrast with the pictures, for example Irving Berling’s Cheek to Cheek played under a fight sequence among 2 rival bands: that wasn’t very subtle, nor, to be honest, very original either  (I suppose he probably did it to distance the audience from the brutal violence of the scene, but we’ve seen this device used many many times before).

I’ve been reading few reviews praising Conor McCarron’s performance, but I actually thought he was quite miscast for the part. I didn’t really find him sympathetic, nor likable enough to care about whether he’s kill anyone or not. He seemed to lack that charisma that a lead actor should have.

Also I didn’t find his change from goody-goody to a ned quite unbelievably abrupt; then again, I am not sure whether that was a problem with his performance or with the script itself. On one hand I felt the shift happened to quickly, one the other hand it was obviously telegraphed from the script right from the start.

However I did like all the secondary characters in the film. Apparently the cast was largely  made of untrained people, and they all added extra injection of realism to the grim story.

To be completely honest I found “NEDS” way too long and fairly messy in its episodic structure. I’m also beginning to find the brutal violence of films like these a bit too repetitive and pointless. In a way I felt like I’d seen this film even before I actually saw it for the first time. And although it started off quite promisingly, it then fell quickly into predictable clichés.

There were only few surprises here and there: the ending (with the non-too-subtle metaphor with the lions) and a scene with a crucifix (which I personally found of poor taste)  being the only two worth mentioning and not necessarily in a good way.

Just because a film talks about serious issues in a serious way, it doesn’t necessarily make it a good film. There was very little in NEDS I haven’t seen before and despite some good individual scenes, but on the whole I felt that the film had said everything it had to say after the first 30 minutes, the rest was just pretty gratuitous and the open ending was just a bit disappointing.

I much prefer Peter Mullan‘s first two films, in fact I loved the The Magdalene Sisters, another tough film, for sure, but at least a more original one with more of grip on the story, the style (NEDS was a mish mash of styles) and and actual ending!

6/10

Another Year – Review

Another Year  (7/10)

Directed by Mike Leigh. Starring Jim BroadbentLesley ManvilleRuth Sheen

If you are familiar with Mike Leigh’s body of works, you’ll be familiar with the themes and the setting of this film. In fact, for the first few minutes you might even be thinking “Oh dear… Another Year, another Mike’s Leigh’s movie”. Then slowly this becomes something that somehow stays with you, especially, I suppose, if you are a slightly older person than I am. This is not only a film about relationships, but it’s a film about growing old and what relationship mean to a person who’s growing old. You’ve got the old happy perfect couple on one side of the spectrum, the old man who starts his day and ends his day by drinking a can of beer (and obviously has many of them in between), the ageing 40 something woman, who suffers from depression and her to drinks herself to the point of embarrassing herself all the time, you’ve got the recently widowed man whose life seems to have stop making sense since the death of the wife. Anyway, in other words, this isn’t a happy depiction of life: it is after all a Mike’s Leigh’s film. It’s a film about real life, about little moments, silences, gestures, little things. There are so big resolutions, no big twists, not a lot of character development, because after all in life we don’t really change much and the biggest twist one may have in his life over the course of one year, is that his or her car might have broken down.

A lot has been made about how Mike Leigh like to shoot his films (rehearsing for 6 months with the actors, letting them improvise  and basically writing down the script as he goes along). In this one he ended up dividing his film into 4 season and he gave each of them a different look and feel. Well, to be honest, there’s absolutely nothing new or original in that: summer looks shining and warm, winter is obviously grey, foggy and with muted colours, perfectly in keeping with the last chapter which is mainly about death.

The film is pretty slow and yet quite mesmerizing. The wonderful performances have a lot to do with the success of this film and I wouldn’t be surprise if I ended up seeing some of those names getting some sort of nominations at the BAFTA… You know those Brits, are so patriotic…

However I did find some of the dialogue a bit fake and forced (especially the scenes at the dinner table with the new girlfriend). Everybody is always waiting for somebody else to finish their sentence before speaking again during the busiest dialogue scenes. On the other hand, during the slower and more quiet scenes silences and awkward moments are stretched a bit too far. It didn’t quite feel right to me.

At the end of the day I couldn’t really help feeling that the film is a bit too indulgent in a few places and some of those scenes could have been trimmed a lot more in the editing (I suppose, that’s the danger of filming sequences in one very long take: there’s probably not a lot of coverage to shorten things with).

Critics have loved it, of course, and I can see why. This is the kind of film that stays with you… But really,  in a few years time will we go back to “Another Year” and watch it again? I don’t think so.

7/10

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