Filmed in a heightened, intensely impressionistic and fragmented style, Duane Hopkins’s follow-up to his 2008 Better Things (Film Comment Selects 2009) continues his tough, gritty exploration of the pressurized lives of socially marginal youth. Set in the economically stagnant Northern town of Gateshead, it centers on teenager Tim (George MacKay), who is forced to become the head of the household following the death of his mother, responsible for his younger sister, Helen (Lara Peake), with social services looking over his shoulder. To make ends meets, he follows in the criminal footsteps of his older brother Greg (Benjamin Dilloway), fresh out of prison, but when his girlfriend Lilly (Charlotte Spencer) gets pregnant and his criminal dealings spiral out of control, Tim is pushed to breaking point, triggering a mysterious illness. Make no mistake, there’s no light relief here—Hopkins’s tough and austere vision of his characters’ lives is uncompromising and utterly unsentimental, light years from the Ken Loach school of social concern and political solidarity. The writer/director draws strong work from his ensemble cast and DP David Procter, whose camerawork gives brings a singularly lyrical texture to a world of bleak circumstances.
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