Dir/scr: Paul AndrewWilliams. UK. 2006. 86mins.
The gritty traditions of British social realist dramaare deftly combined with the dark violence of a gangland thriller in London To Brighton,an accomplished first feature from writer/director Paul Andrew Williams.
Distinguished by its sharpcompositions, heartfelt performances and unexpected tenderness, it unfolds as acompelling tale in which the influence of Ken Loach is marbled with thebrutality of Get Carter.
Critical interest inWilliams as a new talent should help to build a profile for the film that willpay off in solid theatrical returns for UK distributor Vertigo, especially ifthey can reassure potential audiences that it is more Mona Lisa than Lock, Stock AndTwo Smoking Barrels in its aspirations. Internationally, it should help putWilliams on the map.
A former actor andexperienced pop promo director, Williams certainly knows how to grab attention.London ToBrighton begins in the kind of breathless rush that instantly hooks the audience.It is 3.07am. A woman and a young girl burst into a public toilet. They areboth clearly frightened for their lives. Kelly (Lorraine Stanley) is badlybeaten around the face. Joanne (Georgia Groome) isbarely more than a child. It is immediately evident that something awful hashappened. Even as they prepare to catch a train to Brighton it is equallyevident that the consequences may follow them to the grave.
Spare and tightlycontrolled, the film balances forward momentum with revealing flashbacks thatbuild towards a satisfying if not entirely unexpected denouement. It works as athriller, but is even better at delineating the relationship between Kelly andJoanne; a surrogate mother and daughter clinging to each other like orphans inthe storm.
There's just a hint of John Cassavetes' Gloriain the bond between them and an echo of TheSearchers in the final images. Joanne finds a protector whilst Kellydiscovers someone who brings out her maternal instincts. The way the scenariodevelops is anything but sentimental; Kelly is a prostitute and has played herpart in providing Joanne for the pleasure of an older client.
Despite the unsavoury worldthat has brought them together, there is still a plaintive quality to theirrelationship.
Lorraine Stanley is terrificas Kelly, making her a tough, resilient survivor who always seems more real andcomplex than the typical cliche of the tart with aheart. Williams reveals an assurance with both actors and characterisationsthroughout the film.
Thuggish pimp Derek (JohnnyHarris) is both vile and vulnerable as he leads the hunt to find the two women,aware that his life depends on finding them. His tormentor Stuart has a viciousway with a blade but is also fair-minded and Sam Spruellplays him with a simmering menace that is reminiscentof Paul Bettany's star-making performance in Gangster No. 1.
Williams screenplay operateson the basis that characters are always much more interesting if we understandwhy they behave the way they do. Everyone here has their reasons and that elevatesthe film above a simple saga of gangland revenge.
The evocative compositionsby Christopher Ross capturing the bleak sanctuary of Brighton beach or thedanger of London after dark also raise the quality of a first feature thatleaves its mark.
LTB Films Ltd
Independent Film Sales
Paul Andrew Williams