Starring: Stephen Graham, Nicky Bell, Liam Boyle, Oliver Lee, Lee BattleDirector: Pat Holden
Director: Pat Holden
Writer: Kevin Sampson
Cinematography: Lucienne Suren
Original Score: David A. Hughes
Running Time: 105 Mins.
The British film scene leaves me largely cold, I find Mike Leigh’s output too bleakly dull, and Ken Loach fails to engage me on any level, I struggle even to see the merit that comes from the early films of Danny Boyle (the truly ‘British’ ones). In fact the only British film-maker whose film’s I have warmed too are those of Shane Meadows, he is a director who has been able to conjure up both the reality and harshness that has become the staple of the Brit Indie film scene and infuse it with a emminant watchability with realistic and hugely likeable characters.Iit’s true he has had a major misfire in Once Upon A Time In The Midlands but with This Is England he broke new ground in winning me, the Indie Brit film hater, over with one of the best films of 2006.
So as is always the case, on the back of This Is England’s success came a swathe more coming of age dramas from our fair old land! And as is to be expected none are nearly as good. Which brings me to Awaydays, the latest brit-film to take the coming of age/rites of passage story and bring it to the big screen in a hope for This Is England levels of success, of course having it star that films biggest actor, Stephen Graham, can’t hurt.
Set in Liverpool in 1979 we follow Carty (Bell) as he embarks upon a path to becoming a fully fledged member of ‘The Pack’, Liverpool FC’s version of the Green Street, en route he becomes close friends with Elvis (Boyle) a current Pack member and something of an oddity, he doesn’t wear the ‘uniform’ of the others yet is accepted, curious you may think, and you would be right. You see Awaydays, as the trailer would have you think, is not about football hooligans in the same way as Football Factory or Green Street, more a study of the issues that beset young men in the late 70’s, the choices we make, the need to fit in and what it really means to live, albeit set amidst drugs, swearing and the odd outbreak of violence.
It sounds a tad havy, and in truth it is, there is no humour to be found in Awaydays and it must be said that humour is seemingly what these gritty little films live or die on, something which This Is England managed to achieve. Though there is a great deal to be impressed by here, the two leads are solid especially in their complex relationship, with Boyle as the standout veering from confused to confident to tender to aggresive, like a bottle waiting to pop this really is his film, Bell though punches higher given the less grand-standing role of a boy burdened with the responsibility of caring for his sister upon their mothers death whilst attempting to find the usual acceptance with his peers.
The problem is, away from Bell and Boyle’s solitary scenes are those with The Pack, and that is where the film is at it’s weakest ,becoming simply just a rehash of the cliched hooligan scenes seen all too often already with the likes of Green Street, there is no emotional resonance and seemingly nothing to say in the conclusion, is joining The Pack good or bad? It’s a questioned left unanswered and surely it’s the burning one?
Due to its place and time Awaydays has, naturally, a very good soundtrack featuring The Cure and Joy Division among others and though this does help set the tone a good song seems to have become something to use over a mediocre or poor film to elevate it, something which here just doesn’t work and many times I found myself wondering why it was the song that was chosen was significant, with the likely answer being that it wasn’t, it’s just hip to have The Cure on your soundtrack!
Whilst Awaydays does very little to endear me to the Brit-film scene it does have two solid performances in Bell and Boyle, and could well have been a more enjoyable piece were the hooligan Awaydays scenes left on the cuting room floor to find room for a bit more warmth and humanity, but then again, seemingly, that isn’t what the British film industry is about…unless your name is Shane Meadows!