The Proud Valley (UK, 1940)

The workers united…

I knew nothing of the background to The Proud Valley but the swerve towards propaganda at the end felt tacked on; as it transpired to be because war was declared whilst the film was being made. Until then the subversive aspects of the film were particularly interesting and I wasn’t surprised to learn that the scriptwriters Alfredda Brilliant and Herbert Marshall were members of the left-wing Unity Theatre. In addition, having a black hero (the incomparable Paul Robeson) nailed the film as progressive. Apparently Robeson was friends of the husband and wife writing team.

Although Robeson’s acting skills are limited he only has to sing eradicate any problems with his presence. He ends up in a Welsh mining village where, because of his singing voice, he is embraced by the choir. Racism, fortunately, isn’t ignored but the ‘problem’ of his colour for some characters is glossed over quickly. Instead, this man-mountain represents workers’ solidarity, particularly in the face of the mine’s owners who are happy not to reopen the pit after an accident. Such was the lot of the working person in those days… still is of course.

Originally the end featured the community reopening the pit on their own however the start of war meant the film became the first of Ealing Studio’s ‘war effort’ productions and the characters march to London to petition the bosses to open to help with the conflict. Benevolent ‘Sir John’ agrees to give it a go and all ends well; except Robeson’s character sacrifices himself when they are reopening the mine. ‘Bosses and workers’ pulling together was undoubtedly the propaganda message required at the time but it isn’t necessary today. So I wonder why scriptwriter Anthony McCarten felt he needed to add a fictional scene to Darkest Hour (UK-US, 2017) where Churchill rode the London Underground to consult ‘the people’? Worse, ‘the people’ included an Afro-Caribbean man with whom he appears to bond through quoting Shakespeare, so eradicating Churchill’s racism!

I also wonder about the ‘necessity’ of David Goliath’s (Robeson) sacrifice. The romantic interest in the film, as it was unlikely there’d be the odd black woman lurking in the Valleys, is taken by white characters so there could be no happy romantic ending for David; indeed he sacrifices himself for the couple. It creates an emotional ending, but the celebrations for the pit reopening do follow hard behind his death in order to ensure the happy emotion. Couldn’t he have continued just as a member of the community or didn’t he belong after all?

Maybe I’m being over-critical, after all the film is progressive in many ways. As entertainment it struggles; Robeson sings little but there is some sparkling dialogue. It is, however, a testament to Robeson whose connection to Wales continued for many years after the film.

The Deadly Affair (UK, 1967)

James Mason and Simone Signoret: where’s the glamour gone?

Coming two years after The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (UK), one of the best of many John le Carré adaptations, The Deadly Affair was a prestige production that wasn’t afraid to hit the downbeats essential to any portrayal of le Carré’s anti-hero Smiley (though the James Mason’s character is called Dobbs; Paramount had apparently copyrighted original). Unlike its predecessor, Smiley/Dobbs is the protagonist in The Deadly Affair, the title a double entendre about the suicide/murder that serves as the narrative disruption and the character’s strange relationship with his wife, Ann. She’s played by Harriet Andersson, made ‘famous’ in Bergman’s Summer with Monika (Sweden, 1953), and her casting was typical of British cinema of the time when female foreign actors were cast in sexually ‘loose’ roles.

As ever, Mason is brilliant; he moved from heart-throb roles, such as The Wicked Lady (UK, 1945), to a top Hollywood star, A Star is Born (1954), and a great Hitchcock villain in North by Northwest (1959), before returning to British cinema in the 1960s (see Georgy Girl). Contrast his dashing highwayman of 1945 with his sexually impotent Dobbs 20 years later and you see a fearless actor; similarly, Simone Signoret who was the sexy ‘other woman’ in Room At the Top (UK, 1959) here plays a concentration camp survivor that looks old beyond her years.

Grim is the tone of the film and so was its box office despite having an Astrud Gilberto song and a soundtrack written by Quincy Jones as well as the aforementioned stars. Cinematographer Freddie Young, according to Wikipedia, used a ‘technique of pre-exposing the colour film negative to a small, controlled amount of light (known as “flashing” or “pre-fogging”) in order to create a muted colour palette’; rarely has ‘Swinging London’ looked so glum. Director Sidney Lumet eschewed glamorous locations, except for the Serpentine Restaurant in Hyde Park, and stages the few action sequences superbly; Lumet had one of the more interesting careers in commercial cinema, he often looked beyond the box office.

The ending of the film is particularly good with its lack of sentiment. There’s humour too: Lynn Redgrave as a ditzy airhead and Harry Andrews forever snoozing whenever he sits down. One climactic scene is set during the performance of Marlowe’s Edward II, with David Warner on stage, in what looks like a particularly brutal RSC production by Peter Hall. The film was based on le Carré’s  first novel Call for the Dead (1961); I saw it on Talking Pictures.

Carry on Cabby (UK, 1963)

They don’t make them like this any more

It’s probably a good thing that such blatantly sexist films – see above – like this are not made anymore. Except, of course, the Carry On… films (1958-92) were not quite as straightforwardly reactionary as the poster suggests. For a start, the men are all pathetic, self-absorbed idiots; the competent gender is female. This is expressed in Cabby through Hattie Jacque’s character who, in umbrage at her husband’s (Sid James) attitude toward her, starts her own cab (taxi) business, in secret, and easily beats him at his own game. In comedies it’s relatively easy to dramatise such subversive representations as we’re obviously not meant to be taking it seriously however in order for the humour to work it has to draw upon generally recognised tropes; in other words, maybe men deep down knew their hubris was ridiculous. Talbot Rothwell’s script gives James lines that demonstrate his own stupidity in one sentence: he bemoans not knowing what his wife’s up to but refuses to ask her if she isn’t going to tell him without him having to ask.

A Bamforth postcard

The film’s poster isn’t a million miles away from the style of Bamforth’s smutty/bawdy postcards that drew on the Musical Tradition of double entendres and terrible puns. I’m not sure the Carry On… series’ style of humour has any purchase for today’s youngsters, or even those slightly older; how much is my enjoyment for them nostalgia or a funny bone trained by the films during my formative years? In writing about them John Hill suggested:

‘the earlier films… focus on… institutions which bear most heavily on working-class experiences… the ‘them’ and ‘us’ attitude characteristic of certain forms of working-class consciousness refers primarily to the experience of authority relations, especially petty officialdom.’ (Sex, Class and Realism: British Cinema 1956-1963, 142-3)

The series ran for over 30 films showing how popular it was with the mass audience, even whilst the latter was declining for cinema during the 1960s. It was a healthy antidote to the middle-class niceties of Anna Neagle (directed by Herbert Wilcox) but without the gritty realism of the new wave, which invariably featured working-class characters. In Cabby the conflict is not with officialdom and the gender wars, of course, are resolved in favour of men who get to act the heroes in a typical Carry On… ending which dramatises collective action. However, it is noticeable that the collectivism of trade unions is shown not to be desirable.

The key to the series’ success was the actors; in addition to the aforementioned, other regulars grace the film: Kenneth Connor, Jim Dale, Liz Fraser and Charles Hawtrey. The men’s attitude toward sex is puerile and apparently typically British, who seem to feel they could never compete with French eroticism, and I wonder to what extent the passionless, middle class, stiff upper lip attitude (evident in Neagle’s films for example) informed these representations. The censorship of anything sexually daring only started to loosen during the ’60s and it wasn’t until the mid-’80s that the industry (self-)regulator changed its name from British Board of Film Censors to British Board of Film Classification. In 1969 Carry on Camping brought female, topless nudity into the mainstream by starting the film with characters watching Nudist Paradise (UK, 1960); one of a number of ‘nudies’ that circumvented censorship by documenting, as opposed to dramatising, life on a nudist camp. If memory serves, Carry On Up the Khyber (1968) is the best of the films.


The Damned United (UK, 2009)

Clough did have a third act

Integrating professional football into a feature film is particularly difficult as getting actors to mimic ball skills in the context of a live match is more than a massive challenge. The drama of the game, at its best, is impossible to replicate as its jazz improvisation is always going to be wilder than composed staging. That said, The Damned United is probably the best football film ever made; sensibly the actual footy is actuality footage though Michael Sheen, as Brian Clough, does show some nifty ball control. Part of the attraction of the film to old gits like me is reminding me of the game in the 1970s and filling in gaps that I either never knew or have forgotten. Famously Clough was in charge of Division One Champions, Leeds, for only 44 days: what happened?

Based on David Peace’s novel, and it was a novel, Tom Hooper directed Peter Morgan’s adaptation and he skilfully integrates the grimy, faded look of the ’70s footage with the filmed recreations. For fans who believe football started with the wealth of the Premiere League, the portrayal will likely come as a shock: footy was anything but glamorous. Its roots in working class factory workers giving vent on a Saturday afternoon were still much in evidence and none more so in Don Revie’s Leeds which butchered their way to the title twice. Though in the 1970s FA Cup Final they were also kicked off the park by Chelsea featuring Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris; a recent article suggested if the game was played now it would have featured 11 red cards instead of the one yellow shown. It’s a salutary reminder that managers of top flight clubs lived in ordinary houses and top players, when they retired, often ended up running pubs.

Peace’s work was, as I remember, marketed as a novel and not as ‘faction’; in comparison Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s Ark (1982) was packaged as the latter and provoked debate about the ethics of mixing fact and fiction. Of course history, as EH Carr put it, is a sack and is nothing until it’s given shape (interpretation) and anyone who believes there is a clear line between fact and fiction is probably deluding themselves (this is not to say ‘anything goes’: today is indisputably 6th May where I am). One of the Leeds players, Johnny Giles, sued the publisher Faber for libel and minor alterations were made with no acceptance of wrong-doing.

Peace’s interpretation of the events is one that involves hubris and vengeance: Clough felt he’d been slighted by Revie and wanted to show who was best. Whether this is true or not doesn’t particularly matter as it might have been and the key fact of what happened, Clough didn’t last long in the job, are indisputable.

Sheen is quite brilliant in the role: Clough was one who didn’t conform to expectations and put his mouth where his ego was. I can still remember, in 1974 when England were knocked out the World Cup by Poland in qualifying, him reassuring the TV audience at half time that England would win it. I’m pretty sure he disappeared from punditry for some time afterwards. However, although the film ends in ignominy for Clough, as the postscript tells us, his greatest days with Nottingham Forest were ahead of him.

Beast (UK, 2017)

Dark sides?

Writer-director Michael Pearce’s feature debut has enough variants on a theme to engage and is blessed by Jessie Buckley (also in her first feature) as the protagonist. Although there is a serial killer ‘on the loose’, Pearce doesn’t play it as a straight thriller; the initial narrative conflict is occasioned by Moll’s (Buckley) burgeoning relationship with Johnny Flynn’s Pascal; the name may sound posh but he isn’t. The main focus is on social class disparity and prejudice; Flynn portrays the brooding character well, he clearly has some ‘dark secrets’, as he sensibly disregards bourgeois convention. The real star of the film, though, is Buckley.

I last saw her, she hails from Ireland, in Wild Rose where she played a Glaswegian ex-con trying to balance bringing up two children with a hedonist desire to be a country singer. In Beast she is a repressed bourgeois daughter of a domineering mother (Geraldine James channeling nastiness with great skill) in Jersey. In her short feature film career Buckley has shown chameleon-like qualities; it’s not just she looks different, she is different. She also had a supporting role in Judy (UK-US, 2019) where she was similarly virtually unrecognisable (unless you knew it was her). Imdb lists no less five features for her this year, though that, of course, won’t be happening now. She’s definitely one to watch because she’s brilliant.

Buckley subtly portrays the bludgeoned, buttoned-up Moll, who’s being positioned to be the main carer for her Dad who has dementia, as someone with rebellion just beneath the surface. Moll was home schooled due to bullying and there was a violent incident when she wasn’t the victim; she has ‘dark secrets’ too. The director is excellent in portraying the supercilious ‘golf club’ set: when Pascal turns up to a ‘do’ in black jeans Moll’s sister-in-law, Polly (Shannon Tarbet), says, with reference to the clothing ‘faux pas’, “You know what they’re like here.” It’s a great line showing the way bourgeois rules are seen to be separate from the people who adhere to them. Polly is as shallow as the rest of them.

Pearce’s direction is also interesting; he’s not averse to expressionist angles and sound of the sea, in particular, is used with great effect. As the narrative progresses the almost inevitable alignment, as far as the bourgeois conformists are concerned, between the serial killer and Pascal occurs: the question is, ‘how well do we know people we’ve recently met even if they have become lovers?’ Despite this there’s enough in the ending to avoid cliche ensuring that Pearce is a talent to watch too.

Children of Men (US-UK-Japan, 2006) – GFF9

The future of humankind

As we live in a sort of dystopia with the Covid-19 enforced lockdown, we can cheer ourselves up by observing that things ain’t as bad as they might be. In Children of Men, director Alfonso Cuarón and his four other scriptwriters, show a truly terrifying vision of a future without children (based on PD James’ novel). As is the way with science fiction, the film is about now; and the now of 2006 is even more relevant in 2020. The focus of the film is on the treatment of migrants and things have got much worse in the last 14 years as the right-wing dehumanisation of human beings has gained more traction. It’s noticeable that there are those on the right, in the current crisis, who are being honest in their defence of the economy over the lives of the old and infirm (I won’t link to any as they are not worth reading). If the likes of Toby Young are seen on mainstream broadcasters such as the BBC again…

In the film Cuarón highlights the lack of human empathy in our world through: the treatment of migrants; police state tactics; the desecration of the environment; the war on terror; celebrity culture. It shows illegal migrants being caged before deportation and a police state similar to that imagined by George Orwell in his novel 1984  (published 1949). There are numerous contemporary UK references, such as the burning of livestock because of ‘mad cow’ disease and the hysteria that accompanied the ‘national’ mourning of Princess Diana. 

In a documentary short that accompanied the DVD release of the film, The Possibility of Hope (US, 2007), the broader issues of climate change and capitalism (which both fuel increased migration) are investigated showing Cuarón to be a political filmmaker even if his films are commercial in nature.

I’m not sure why Children of Men wasn’t a hit as it is a brilliant action movie containing some of the most thrilling sequences in cinema. Cuarón likes to use the long take, also used to devastating effect in Roma and with didactic purpose in Y tu mama tambien. Film theorist André Bazin would likely have approved of Cuarón’s aesthetic except for the fact he favours a moving camera. Having screentime mirror the audience’s experience of time does signify realism, we get a sense that we see characters acting in real time and so avoiding the manipulation of editing (ignoring the fact that a number of long takes in the film are separate shots digitally welded together). In addition, this ‘sense’ of real time can serve to heighten suspense in a ‘race against time’ narrative sequence. Hence, when the protagonists are under attack in a car the escape unfolds in the same time experienced by the spectator and, as there are no cuts, it seems as if the profilmic event happened as it is shown. Having the camera inside the vehicle further enhances the suspense as this gives the audience the same viewpoint as the characters. 

Cuarón’s long takes are not always focused on key narrative action. For example, at one point the camera wanders away from Theo, who is present in every scene of the film, to seemingly investigate what’s going on elsewhere: when he’s on his way to work, soldiers are standing on the street and the camera walks through them to see a block of flats being emptied, presumably of refugees. 

Clive Owen’s taciturn persona as the protagonist Theo is perfect for the role. Danny Huston’s cameo as a government minister is a masterful portrayal of the vapid urbanity of the English upper class. Michael Caine channels John Lennon as a Steve Bell-like political cartoonist (Bell did the actual cartoons on view) and Chiwetel Ejiofor, as a revolutionary, manages to convey deranged fervour and genuine concern. However, the true star of the film is Cuarón and his long-time collaborator, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who have produced a devastating vision of life without a future and life with humanity.

Mary Shelley (UK-Luxembourg-US-Ireland, 2017)

Musing upon life and death

The choice of Haifaa Al-Mansour to direct this slice of English Gothic is interesting; she was the first female Saudi to direct a film and this is the follow-up to her debut, the excellent Wadjda. Presumably the producers were attracted by her outsider’s eye (and of course her talent) though I’m not sure what she has added as the material is presented in a straightforward, and efficient, manner. Al-Mansour is also credited with ‘additions’ to Emma Jensen’s debut script. My knowledge of Mary Shelley is limited but it’s good to get her perspective on the Romantic poets, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron.

If the script sometimes leans towards a 21st century view of gender, the film’s set in the early 19th, then that is forgivable. It even uses the term ‘gender’ when ‘sex’ would have been the word of the time. We are, after all, observing the past through modern eyes; no one can truly recreate historical times. There’s no doubt that Mary (Elle Fanning) was a remarkable woman: we meet her at 16, daughter of the feminist Mary Wollstonecroft Godwin who died just after birthing her. Her dad, William (Stephen Dillane), was also a radical but the film shows he is somewhat nimbyish about the emancipation of his daughter.

Percy (Douglas Booth) is portrayed as a ‘pretty boy’ who follows his libido though he has more about him than simply being a ‘player’. That Mary’s masterpiece, the novel Frankenstein, was initially attributed to him shows the sexism of the time and he’s portrayed as unhappy about it. Tom Sturridge’s Lord Byron, on the other hand, is entirely heartless with women; I didn’t find the performance convincing (too much kohl?).

Probably due to budget limitations, there’s no sense that they are in Switzerland when Mary concocts her famous and hideous tale. I wasn’t even sure they were abroad until the challenge to write a ghost story arose. While Gothic graveyards are given their due, it was a mistake not to show the awesome Swiss peaks as an inspiration on Shelly’s famous novel. On the other hand, the influence of popular theatre presenting the ‘miracle’ of Galvanism is well portrayed.

Elle Fanning is excellent as Mary, combining youthful vulnerability with fiery defiance. Bel Powley, as her sister, makes her mark as someone determined to not be left behind by her brilliant sibling. It avoids the problem that many biopics have of trying to cram a life into a short narrative as the focus is on the key moment in Mary Shelley’s life, meeting Percy and publishing Frankenstein.

Little Joe (UK-Austria-Germany)

Little does she know

I found this film intensely irritating because it seemed to me, though it is science fiction, it was taking a snooty attitude to the genre by insisting, through its arthouse aesthetic, that it’s not a genre film. I’m not saying you can’t do arthouse-genre but if the approach to the set of conventions is to drain them of significance then we’re looking at a pile of dung. Andrei Tarkovsky managed to make SF ‘difficult’ in Solaris (Solaryis, USSR, 1972)  and Stalker (USSR, 1979), for instance, and interesting. Director Jessica Hausner, who co-wrote with Géraldine Bajard, takes a template used so brilliantly in Invasion of the Body Snatchers and allows the plot points to clunk together with all the momentum of a feather floating earthwards. What’s worse, the cues on the soundtrack, which kept reminding me of the feminist classic, Maja Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon (US, 1943), suggested the revelations were meant to be dramatic; Roy Stafford pointed out that the composer, Ito Teiji, had worked with Deren. Ito died in 1981 so Hausner is incorporating his avant garde music which includes barking dogs at revelatory moments which would be disturbing if the plot point hadn’t been signified half an hour earlier.

Of course maybe I’m just not ‘getting it’. Emily Beecham, as the protagonist Alice who genetically engineers plants to make us feel happy, won best actress at Cannes, which is hard for me to fathom. I’m not saying Beecham is poor, just that the stilted acting style, which runs throughout all the performances, is obviously required by Hausner; but to what purpose? On one level, there seems to be suggestion that ‘nerdish’ scientists struggle to relate to others; Alice’s son’s girlfriend calls him a nerd. On another level, it might be implying that using chemicals to regulate mood is something that changes our humanity (a key theme of the film). Or, possibly, it’s representing characters as postmodern, in the sense of Cronenberg’s Crash (Canada, 1996), were emotions are no longer real but rather simulacra. Such ambiguity is the grist of arthouse but it wasn’t articulated in any clear fashion: the ending of the film didn’t offer us an ‘arthouse question’ but a heap of loose ends.

Similarly, near the end of the film we see a shot of the Liver Building so rather than the film’s setting being a, more or less, anonymous city it is suddenly in a particular place: Liverpool. But why take so long to tell us that? Probably because it isn’t significant in which case well tell us at all?! Maybe the Austrian Hausner didn’t know of the building’s iconic status?

You may have gleaned the film pissed me off.

Wild Rose (UK, 2018)

Walking the line

Films are commercial beasts which are difficult to make profitably and it was hilarious when then PM David Cameron told a meeting of film producers that all they had to do was make films that were popular. The tension between art and commerce, in art generally, has been present at least since the rise of capitalism and film, being a particularly expensive art form, suffers more than most from compromises intended to ensure a return on investment. The fact that compromise is deemed necessary is not meant as a criticism: filmmaking is a job and as such has to pay. Wild Rose received funding from Channel 4 and the BFI, both institutions that have responsibilities for funding culture over commerce, but the producers of WIld Rose still cast names, Sophie Okonedo andJulie Walters, in supporting roles in an attempt to boost box office. It’s not that they, both excellent actors, don’t do the roles well but it’s not exactly supporting Scottish artists – Roy Stafford has useful comments on this in his review. Besides, Okonedo’s role is as a middle class Englishwomen (but she could have been Scottish) so there’s less contention about her casting. Lead, Jessie Buckley, is Irish but there can’t be many actors who sing country so convincingly and she gives a star-making performance, so no quibbles there.

Rose-Lynn (Buckley) is a would-be country singer saddled with two children who have been brought up by her mother (Walters) whilst she was in jail. ‘Saddled’ is the correct term as she resents the wee bairns as much as the electronic tag attached to her leg  that prevents her singing at the Glasgow Opry in the evenings. Working for Okonedo’s Susannah, as a day woman, gives Rose new hope and we’re in the treacherous territory of a middle-class saviour. Thankfully, Nicole Taylor’s script is too savvy for that and it also negotiates the commercial need for a feel-good ending well; after all this is Glasgow and not Hollywood.

There’s a subtlety given to Walters’ role of the long-suffering grandma who berates her daughter for not treating her children correctly but understands the frustrations involved. Rose is not an entirely sympathetic character either, as she regularly forgoes caring for her children for self-centred hedonism. Here the middle-class milieux of Susannah is important as it demonstrates the opportunities not open to working class people. Grandma had wanted to be a pharmacist but had to work from 15-years-old. Too often those in power patronise the working class for not taking opportunities in life apparently not understanding that the opportunities given to middle class children, often in public schools, are not available to everybody. Hence the victim is blamed for their plight.

There are many females in key producing roles in this film though it’s (ably) directed by a man, Tom Harper. A recent report showed how having women directing and/or writing leads to more prominence to female roles (not exactly rocket science that but it’s important to have the statistics). The current BBC series The Trial of Christine Keeler has women in all the main creative roles and it shows on the screen as the white middle class men are presented as the scumbags they were. In episode four, Keeler’s (Sophie Cookson) agent asks if she’s a femme fatale; while the noir character may not have been part of popular discourse in the early ’60s, it’s a knowing moment as Keeler glances at herself in the mirror as she shows incomprehension at the question. Scriptwriter Amanda Coe draws our attention to the trope that women are blamed for the fall of men when it’s always the men’s fault anyway.

Calm with Horses (UK-Ireland, 2019) – LIFF5

Arm’s Iago looks over him

This is an impressive feature film debut from director Nick Roland and writer Joe Murtagh (based on a Colin Barrett story of the same name). It features a low level gang in the west of Ireland who blight the lives of all they touch, including themselves. It is the not-very-bright protagonist, Arm (brilliantly played by Cosmo Jarvis who was in Lady Macbeth, UK, 2016), with whom we are invited to sympathise with the most despite the violence he metes out at the beginning of the film. Just before this he voiceovers, a technique not used in the rest of the film, that we shouldn’t think that men of violence like to be violent. It is an unnecessary statement because it soon becomes clear that that’s what the film’s about; in addition, Jarvis’ ‘hard man’ stare clearly conceals a deep vulnerability.

Arm is an ex-boxer who leaves the ring after killing a man during a bout and is recruited by the nascent leader of the Dever family, superbly played by Barry Keoghan, as his enforcer. There’s something of an Iago about Keoghan’s character, whispering into Arm’s ear about how his ex-partner is trying to blackmail him for money for his autistic son. You can almost see the conflict boiling beneath Arm’s battered face as he struggles with his loyalties. In the way it is pronounced, the ‘Dever family’ sounds like the ‘Devil family’ and the moniker is not far wrong.

Cinematographyer Piers McGrail manages to drain the stunning landscapes of western Ireland of their grandeur, giving a suitably gritty look that is far from the tourist ‘Kerrygold’ imagery. Most of the people, too, who populate the film are miles away from the whimsical friendliness of the Emerald Isle. Instead we see desperate people in desperate circumstances. There is some hope, though, through the mother of Arm’s child, played by Niamh Algar, who is striving to do the best for her difficult son; and Anthony Welsh has a small role as a BAME student from the north of England researching the use of horses in therapy and he punctures the insularity of the narrative world. Maybe in the original story the horses are more central; here they are peripheral.

It’s an impressive film that, although offering a sort of redemption, avoids any sentimentality in its ending. I’m looking forward to this talented crews’ next offerings. It’s due for release in the UK next March.