Dir/scr: Jan Dunn. UK.2005. 98mins
The prospect of anofficially approved British Dogme film may not set hearts racing but Gypodefies any low expectations. An accomplished first feature, it makes a virtueof its adherence to the vows of cinematic chastity required by the Dogmemanifesto.
Shot in 13 days on a microbudget from a largely improvised script, it allies that guerrilla aesthetic tosome sophisticated storytelling. A strong reception at its Edinburgh screeningsreflect its ability to connect with an audience but its roots in a longtradition of gritty, miserablist British social realism also suggest that theaudience is a very limited one. Further festival exposure seems a given afterplay at both Edinburgh and the Frameline 29 festival in San Francisco.
It only becomes apparent inwatching the film that it has been structured in such a way that we will seethe main events from three different perspectives. This serves to heighten thedramatic appeal of the material as each section does provide us with freshinsights into what has been happening and a growing sense of the biggerpicture.
The unexpected developmentsof the final story veer towards the melodramatic but by then we are willing toforgive its flaws as we have come to know the characters and respect theintegrity of the production.
In the first third of the film,we see things through the eyes of Helen (McLynn) a working-classwoman who could have stepped out of the plays of Willy Russell. Frustrated byher marriage to racist carpet-fitter Frank (McGann) and disappointed by herchildren, she is trying to find some way of expressing herself or changing herlife. She extends a family welcome to her daughter's friend Tasha (Sirene) andher mother (Lenska), both refugees from Czech Republic in flight from abusivehusbands.
The second story focuses onFrank, his dead-end life, his resentment at an increasingly shrewish Helen andhis bitter disdain for the refugee underclass in his home town.
Then, we see events fromthe eyes of Tasha, as she struggles to overcome the prejudice and racism ofsome of the local population to find love and some sense of security.
Gypo is not without its roughedges. There are times when every conversation feels like a confrontation andeach sentence is an accusation. Initially, there seems a lack of light andshade in the drama but the shots of Christmas events in the city, sunsets onthe beach and ominous skies add some lyrical touches.
McLynn initially seems alittle too theatrical in her approach to the central role of Helen but againshe is able to reveal more shadings and poignancy to the character as eventsunfold.
English actress ChloeSirene is astonishingly convincing as a Czech teenager and there is strongsupport from the more experienced actors, especially a bitter, grim-facedMcGann.
The ending may seem alittle too conventional and glib for comfort but in the way she has devised,shaped and carefully nurtured this low-budget venture, Jan Dunn proves herselfa very promising new British talent.
Distant Eye Films
Spotting Dog Films
Christine Borg Nielsen