55th BFI London Film Festival: ‘Junkhearts’ paints by social-realist numbers

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Directed by Tinge Krishnan

Written by Simon Frank

Starring; Eddie Marsan, Tom Sturridge, Romola Garri, Candese Reid

Despite the London Film Festival’s global reach and cosmopolitan constitution, it also dedicates particular attention to indigenous product, providing a valuable outlet to low budget domestic British cinema to gain the attention it occasionaly deserves, with an opportunity to be seen on the big screen as intended through their New British Cinema festival strand. One of the films under this years banner is Junkhearts, an urban drama in which Eddie Marsan plays Frank, a lonely, alcoholic ex-soldier who seems to be sliding toward an early grave as he suffers PTSD-induced hallucinations following a brutal tour of Northern Ireland some years earlier. When he meets and befriends the homeless waif Lysette (an impressive turn from newcomer Candese Reid) he seems to have found a surrogate for his estranged daughter, a single mother whom we see struggling to juggle the twin pressures of child care and a professional PR career. The growing affection and care between Frank and Lysette is shattered when her drug dealing boyfriend worms his way into Frank’s abode, and taking advantage of his goodwill all three are soon dragged into his dangerous plans for expansion, which provoke the wrath of the local kingpin.

Not even as fine a calibre of actor as Eddie Marsan can save what can be charitably described as ground that has been trod numerous times in recent British cinema, and one imagines the filming costs of the same dour East London council estates and chaotic night-time streets (Brick Lane rather than the usual Soho this time round) have refilled the coffers of many an ailing local authority. A reasonably strong opening introduces Frank to Lynette to through one of those credulity-stretching encounters, but their relationship starts to develop in an engaging and thoughtful way, with one scene in particular where Frank teaches self defence being quietly superb with a sense of genuine affection and care that the characters are building for each other. But then the plot devolves into some ridiculous and unnecessary contortions as the boyfriend’s ambitions exceed his reach (Guns? Really?) before diving off into some tiresome and unrealistic instant slides into harder drug problems that wallow in a cheaply sordid facade. It’s a shame because Marsan is fascinating to watch as always, and debut actress Reid has a naturalistic charm that one hopes to light up some future projects. Ultimately, the film closes on a predicable note through an extraneous plot line which could have been completely jettisoned, and seems only to have been crafted to provide a weak and unearned cathartic climax that is unmoving. More Marsan please, less painting by social realism numbers.

Visit the official website for the 55th BFI Film Festival

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  1. […] second off-site review is here which I’m sorry to say was not the finest piece of British cinema ever, however  next […]

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