Director: Dominic Savage. UK. 2002. 90 mins

An angry, nihilistic drama told with gut-renching conviction, Out Of Control confirms writer-director Dominic Savage as the standard bearer for the raw, social realist traditions established and refined by Ken Loach and the late Alan Clarke. A largely improvised story intended for transmission on UK TV station BBC1 next month, the film completes a trilogy of dramas by Savage portraying the wasted lives and bleak futures facing a generation of young Britons. An intensely emotional piece that would prove a tough commercial sell, it still deserves wider exposure than a single television broadcast, even if that comes from extensive festival appearances rather than theatrical sales.

A former actor and documentary filmmaker, Savage received a BAFTA for Best New Director for Nice Girl (2000) and a further BAFTA for Best Single Drama for When I Was 12 (2001). Originally entitled The Young Offenders, Out Of Control focuses on the tragic tale of Dean (Young), a sensitive 15-year-old who lives on a south London housing estate with his mother (Outhwaite). She is determined to keep him out of trouble and away from the temptations of drink, delinquency and drugs that have scarred the lives of his contemporaries.

The boy loves his mother and respects what she is trying to do but is easily led by peer pressure. When his best friend Charlie (Webb) returns from his latest spell of incarceration, they are soon riding the streets in a stolen car. It is Dean who is caught and sentenced to two months in a young offenders institute where his life is made a living hell at the hands of sadistic bully Sam (Gregory).

Carrying strong echoes of influential 1970s productions like Stephen Frears Bloody Kids (1979) and Alan Clarke's Scum (1979), Out Of Control paints a powerful vision of youngsters who have rejected the values of a society that has nothing to offer them and no way to reach them. Danny is established as a bright, decent lad who could flourish in the right circumstances, but even he cannot escape the lure of the streets. Prison officer Mike (Morrisey) is a caring, compassionate member of the establishment who does what he can to help - but still cannot protect a boy like Danny from his fate.

Given added urgency by the use of restless, handheld camerawork and the improvised dialogue, Out Of Control occasionally threatens to let its edgy aesthetic dominate the emotional content of the storyline. But Savage proves to be a shrewd judge of the material and secures heartbreaking performances from an impressive cast of newcomers and established actors.

Danny Young is entirely believable as the baby-faced teenager singled out as a victim, and Leo Gregory brings a lacerating, De Niro-like conviction to the psychotic bully Sam. Meanwhile Tamzin Outhwaite's gutsy performance as the loving, care-ravaged mother should allow her to take further strides forward from any pejorative associations with her former status as TV soap star.

Prod co/int'l sales: BBC Films
Ruth Caleb
Exec prod:
David Thompson
Cinematography: Barry Ackroyd
Prod des:
Tom Bowyer
David Hill
Main cast: Tamzin Outhwaite, David Morrisey, Jamie Foreman, Frank Harper, Danny Young, Leo Gregory, Bronson Webb, Akemnji Ndifornyan