The Violators

***

Reviewed by: Luke Shaw

The Violators
"A respectfully written and admirably performed drama."

Two girls from different sides of the tracks end up embroiled in the sordid affairs of a small town debt collector in a gritty urban drama from Helen Walsh. Shelly (Lauren McQueen) is a 15-year-old forced to forgo her teenage years by acting as a surrogate mother for her younger brother Jerome. Battling against the ignorance of her elder brother and the ineffectual advice of her social worker, she does her best to scrape through. She is drawn into the affairs of local lender/pawn shop letch Mikey (Stephen Lord), who proceeds to take advantage of her teenage vulnerability.

In contrast, Rachel (Brogan Elis) lives in a gated paradise, where she steals through the night to ruin the plans of her mother’s adulterous fling, and hovers on the periphery of Mikey and Shelly’s world, forming an unclear relationship with the latter which is intentionally ambiguous for the first half of the film. The film then introduces the time-bomb of Shelly’s father’s impending parole, and her rush to protect her disheveled family unit leads pushes her further into the hands of the manipulative Mikey.

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The only positive light comes the affable Army recruit who lives across the road and acts as her would-be guardian angel. This isn’t an outlandish caricature of lower class life, however, and the plot simmers rather than explodes, which works to its benefit as it refuses to exploit its characters by going for violent shocks.

Although the plot is fairly by the numbers, and the ending seems to drain all the venom from the tale, this is a respectfully written and admirably performed drama. Walsh directs with an invasive, voyeuristic style, challenging the viewer to see the world through Shelly’s eyes whilst cutting her up into soft focused segments like the predatory males she is forced to share her life with.

The lack of a climatic ending robs the build up a little, but is in keeping with film’s grasp for realism rather than outright despondency. Instead, Walsh suggests that even the biggest events create little more than ripples in a world of systemic manipulation and pervasive poverty. That said, this isn’t the irredeemable and horrific world of Tyrannosaur, and The Violators makes a more downbeat stable mate to Shane Meadows’ reserved look at the lives of down and out children in Somers Town.

Reviewed on: 23 Jun 2015
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Two dysfunctional girls, from different backgrounds set off on a course that will have profound implications for both of them.
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