Tag Archives: Drama

A Room For Romeo Brass (1999)

Shane Meadows knows how to do a slow-burner. One of Britain’s most powerful filmmakers, Meadows is a master of racketing up the tension in a seemingly ordinary situation. Never stupid, never sensational, he casts his unblinking eye on modern life in the UK and the fragilities of human relationships. If I had to choose between Meadows and Mike Leigh, I would pick Meadows, every time.

“A Room For Romeo Brass” is about how an ordinary friendship can undergo extraordinary duress when a dangerous third party is added to the mix. Two preteen friends, white Gavin and mixed-race Romeo share a brotherly bond that is equal parts camaraderie and constant teasing. Gavin (Ben Marshall,) called ‘Knocks,’ has a bad back and a limp, and is in transition to another surgery.

He’s always up to a bit of mischief, and Romeo (Andrew Shim) is his softer-hearted other half. When a man named Morell (a very young Paddy Considine) rescues Gavin and Romeo from some bigger boys, he seems like a harmless, if eccentric, addition to the group. With his ‘Simple Jack’ haircut and halting speech, he doesn’t readiate ‘cool,’but he is friendly and can tell a sensational story like anyone.

The thing about these kinds of stories is, if they sound too good to be true they probably are, but this matters nada to the boys and one of them, Romeo, is sucked in by his dynamic personality. Gavin thinks that Morell is a sucker and good for a mean practical joke. He’s deadly wrong. As Morell reveals a dark, violent side, Romeo and Gavin’s friendship is tested to it’s outer limits.

Shane Meadows found two good little actors in Shim and Marshall, but Considine is the main draw here. Considine, who would later astonish audiences, including myself, in Shane Meadows’ grungy revenge indie “Dead Man’s Shoes”, puts a unique spin on a character who is probably suffering from an undiagnosed mental disorder.

Like “Sling Blade”‘s Karl or “Buddy Boy”s Francis, Morell’s uniqueness is electrifying to watch. At times I was wowed by this apparently simple man’s ability to coerce and manipulate, and wondered if his limitations were a ruse and he was, in fact, a very clever psychopath. The truth is much more complicated.

Wait for the precise moment when the up-til-then likably dotty Morrel becomes suddenly sinister. It’s mind-blowing. “A Room for Romeo Brass” glues your eyes to the screen, and tells a intense story about friendship and betrayal, about a wolf in sheep’s clothing who fleetingly wins- if not earns- our sympathy nonetheless. With it’s three-dimensional characters and incisive writing, it’s nothing less than riviting. Bravo, Shane Meadows. Keep them coming.

Angst (1983)

So, apparently this movie is super rare and eventually I got my hands on a bootlegged copy (don’t judge me, I’m not proud of it!) The DVD I now own is the short version (at 75 minutes) and has somewhat grainy picture quality. The plot follows the homicidal maniac credited simply as ‘the psychopath’ (eerily played by Erwin Leder,) who is released from prison where he served time for the murder of an elderly lady only to set his sights on a family living in an isolated house.

The main character never kills to steal or pillage. He has no use for cash or fineries, and never knew his victims prior to the homicides. He kills simply because he gets off on it. He has never known a life without cruelty or abuse, and this is neither a rationalization or an excuse. Now I’m going to format this review a little differently than the others. Here are some thoughts:

. “Angst” approaches the serial killer genre a little differently than other films of it’s kind. First of all, the movie makes no effort to sympathize or rationalize the killer’s actions. Unlike, for instance, Gerard Johnson’s “Tony” (a very good movie in it’s own right) where you grow to feel for the psychopath, Leder’s killer is unrelentingly (and perhaps appropriately) loathsome.

. I may be mistaken, but I believe the killer never speaks to any of his victims. We hear his voice through a voice-over narration. This is an interesting filmmaking method, as is the bizarre and jarring cinematography and soundtrack.

. I hate the fact that this guy even got out of prison because he made up some bullshit story about being well. Twice! (the first was for the murder of his mother.) People like this should be kept behind bars for as long as humanly possible, as with all mass murderers and sexual deviants. It’s not worth it, people! (Okay, that’s my inner Conservative talking, but it’s a pretty f’ing valid point.)

. It made me mad when I saw that the wheelchair-bound man-boy (Rudolf Götz) at the home the killer broke into was left alone in the house. I’m sorry, but a man with the IQ of an infant shouldn’t be left to fend for himself while his mom and sister are out shopping! He could fall out of his wheelchair… or, shit his pants… or have his home broken into by a necrophiliac serial killer! See, the unthinkable does happen!

. The stand-out actor was definitely Erwin Leder. Rudolf Götz was good too as the mentally challenged man. Silvia Rabenreither and Edith Rosset were a little weak as the daughter and the mother, respectively.

. I was puzzled and relieved that he *MILD SPOILER* let the dog live. My only guess (besides that he was just such a nice guy, har-har) is that he wanted a relic from the killings. Whatever the reason, I was happy that the cute little daschund did not meet a gruesome (and untimely) end. *END OF SPOILER*

Overall I found this movie interesting because it offers a glimpse into a serial killer’s mind. I didn’t really find it all that disturbing, but others might be horrified by the violence displayed here, so for that reason I would not recommend it to sensitive viewers. The camerawork and soundtrack are another asset- haunting and strange, it adds to the sense of disorientation and horror the movie is trying to achieve. Watch it, if you can find it.

Girlfriend (2010)

I can’t believe it! A film with a disabled character who isn’t a maudlin stereotype? Will wonders never cease? “Girlfriend,” in the spirit of “Sling Blade” or “Treacle Jr.,” creates a unique and engaging protagonist with a intellectual impairment. But this time, the actor who plays the lead (Evan Sneider) is also disabled.

Afflicted with Down Syndrome, Evan (Sneider) lives with his mother (Amanda Plummer) in a small town that offers few options. Meanwhile Evan is enamored with old high school crush and single mother Candy (Shannon Woodward), whose feelings toward Evan and his challenges are ambiguous.

Into this scenario swaggers Candy’s white trash ex-boyfriend Russ (Jackson Rathbone, venomously unlikable and liberated from the “Twilight” franchise). When Evan’s mother dies, his attraction to Candy only intensifies, and all three are caught in triangle that will leave none untouched.

One of the reasons I watched this movie was that I heard Amanda Plummer was in it, so it was disappointing to have her die in the first ten minutes. Nevertheless, Evan’s mother Celeste is one of the best portrayals and most real characters in this story.

Far from being a typical movie hero mom, Celeste has her good days and her bad, like any other mom. There is one scene where Celeste represses her rage at her and Evan’s oppressive employer with a subtle facial twitch which I felt really displayed Amanda Plummer’s acting talent.

In fact, the only performance I felt was a little weak is Sneider’s. I know, I feel like I’m picking on the disabled kid in the lunchroom, but Sneider was not prepared to take some of the dramatic turns the story took. Nevertheless, his occasional faltering didn’t distract me from the story too much.

Evan is a very interesting character in that I got to see him exercise his dark side a little, which is rare in a movie like this. It’s always aggravated me the way people desexualize people with disabilities, so seeing Evan experience libido and exhibit desire for a relationship — and yes, sex — was refreshing.

I found the ending a little convoluted. You know that moment when things are resolved only as they are in the movies? Yeah, like that. The final twist was similarly unsatisfying, as I think sex shouldn’t be something you give out to compensate for past mistakes. At the same time, though, I was kind of impressed they were daring enough to end it that way.

Overall, “Girlfriend” is a very underrated and intriguing movie about small town relationships and the limitations we all have. This is writer/director Justin Lerner’s first feature-length movie, and I hope to see more of him very soon. I recommend this film to anybody who loves independent movies.

The Living & the Dead (2006)

Not your first pick for Mother’s Day, The Living and the Dead is morbid and horrifying, and I mean that, strangely, as a compliment. It is a family drama, a psychological thriller, a tragedy, an art film, all these things at once, and and despite it’s flaws, it doesn’t overextend.

The film opens with Lord Donald Brocklebank (Roger Lloyd-Pack), a worn-down, silent shell of an old man, pushing an empty wheelchair through a quiet room. The image delivers the same feeling as a dark grey painting, lonely and despondent. He watches, lip quivering, as an ambulance pulls into his massive estate. Cut back an undetermined amount of time. Donald stands straighter. He maintains a kind of pride that must come with being one of the British elite, but he is grieving. He has a lot to grieve about.

His wife, Lady Nancy Brocklebank, is terribly sick and probably won’t be with him much longer. The bills are piling up, and they will soon lose their mansion. His son James (Leo Bill, in an over-the-top performance that works), dashes around the house with little clear purpose.

James is in his mid-to-late twenties. He is stuck in a kind of permanent childhood, the kind of childhood that is made up of nightmares, not whimsy. Although Simon Rumley, the director, describes him as “mentally challenged,” I suspect paranoid schizophrenia.

James is by far my favorite character in the film. He is a complicated movie creation, and his emotional limitations do not hold back his complexity or ambiguity as a person. Donald treats James with the casual cruelty that is most likely inflicted on the mentally ill more often than we think, condescending to him, forbidding him to use the phone or answer the door. James is desperate to prove to his father that he is an independent adult and plans to do so by taking care of his mother.

His father understandably rejects the idea. In an matter of days, James will have locked the door, shut out the nurse, skipped his pills, and may have destroyed the lives of those closest to him. Soon, as his lucidity deteriorates, the viewer begins to wonder if the past events were only in James’ head. This is a film for a patient audience — it’s a while before anything happens and the reality of the events is questionable.

The atmosphere is palpable, and the characters are well developed. There are many plot holes and unanswered questions throughout the film, as the story itself seems on the edge of reality, with its Gothic features and abstract images.

People have had different opinions on whether James is “good” or “bad.” He is a disturbing character, to be sure. He is not a sex maniac, mad slasher, or stony-faced killer, but an exceptionally childlike and deeply disturbed man. This movie might make you feel differently about a crime, in the paper, in which mental illness was a factor. Despite naysayers, The Living and the Dead is an emotional bombshell and thought-provoking film.