London To Brighton
7

  • Paul Andrew Williams
  • 2006

Hailed as one of the highlights of the Edinburgh Film Festival this year, first time feature writer/director Paul Andrew Williams has crafted an uncompromising urban thriller in London to Brighton. A seedy tale of revenge set in the back street underground, it sees badly beaten London prostitute Kelly (Lorraine Stanley) flee with 11-year-old Joanne (Georgia Groome) to Brighton with her pimp Derek (Johnny Harris) in hot pursuit. As the exact events of the night before unfold through a fractured narrative and flashback, it is revealed millionaire paedophile Duncan Allen (Alexander Morton) and his cold and brutal son Stuart (Sam Spruell) have fuelled the search for the two girls. It won’t be a happy reunion.

…the bleak lives of the tortured souls

Made on a shoe-string budget and shot on location in London and Brighton, Williams captures the worst of inner city life. When Kelly initially meets runaway Joanne, he focuses on the gritty spaces of Underground train stations, toilets and cheap cafes to emphasise the bleak lives of the tortured souls. Derek’s grotty pad serves as further evidence that even presumably habitable areas are cold and dank for these characters. When the action switches to Brighton the freedom of the beach offer only brief respite from the horrors that await later in the film. Indeed, when given glimpses of more affluent accommodation Williams injects the scum there too — one man lends Derek a shotgun to help hunt down Kelly and Joanne while the other is the scene of the most harrowing part of the film.

Performances, particularly from newcomer Groome, are compelling. Groome veers from streetwise smoker to the innocence of childhood to alarming effect which reflects the peril her confidence belies. Harris is the man you could not trust to guard your bike — he makes Derek an unsympathetic monster who abuses even his only friend, reluctant right hand man Chum (Nathan Constance). Kelly is conceived by Stanley as a woman who has a tender heart but unable to break away from the street. While many of these characters may not be your first choice for friends, they add up to a compelling mix of lost souls battling for their lives. Williams’s direction is edgy and its handheld style gives it a documentary feel as times.

…it is an suitably nasty portrait of a lifestyle the majority of us will probably never see

London to Brighton is quite an achievement for Williams and provides further evidence that no one does gritty cinema quite like the British. Harsh turns until the bittersweet end, he may evoke comparisons to Michael Winterbottom who served up a similarly bleak debut with Butterfly Kiss (1995). While you may not come away feeling uplifted or with a life-affirming premonition, it is an suitably nasty portrait of a lifestyle the majority of us will probably never see, and few would want to experience. A near-knuckle ride not for the faint hearted.

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