Once Upon A Time In The Midlands

Once Upon A Time In The Midlands

DVD Rating: **

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Read Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of Once Upon A Time In The Midlands

For a double disc DVD, this is a disappointment. Only those who consider Shane Meadows second in line to Ken Loach's throne will relish the bulk of it, which is a thing called Shane's World, a series of short little films, starring Meadows and Paddy Considine.

When the now-great SM started fooling around with a camera in Nottingham with his mates - he likes to remind you that he's a working-class lad - he was churning out this kind of stuff daily. Example: Macca's Men. Considine plays a bloke with big teeth who coaches football to kids. He works as a cleaner at the local footie club and says he loves the game so much he wants to give something back. He knows that everyone laughs at him because of his teeth, but he shrugs it off as one of life's cruel jokes. He doesn't expect recognition, or thanks. He's just happy when the kids are happy.

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The shorts with Considine are better than those with Meadows, who tends to overact and shout at the camera, like in Tanks Top Tips, when he's talking about making movies and why improvisation is a terrific wheeze ("Scripts take forever to write"). His humour is of the head bangin', laddish variety, definitely an acquired taste. He likes to use moronic sidekicks, whom he can verbally abuse.

The best of these mini movies is the last, in which Considine plays a boxer who kills an opponent in the ring and goes to jail. It is well written and sensitively acted, something you cannot say about the others. Meadows opens and closes Shane's World with prayers to God. The camera stays close on his face - round, unshaven, bald - as he rambles through a monologue about being afraid that he can't do it anymore and needs inspiration from on high. It is difficult to tell whether he's taking the Michael, or pleading for real. Probably the latter.

There is rehearsal footage (pretty good waste of time), deleted scenes (excellent - why deleted?), out-takes (funny stuff on set), interviews (Carlyle thoughtful, Finn Atkins natural, Ifans irrepressible, Burke being Burke, Wilkinson tagging along), Face To Feltz (looks identical to the sequence at the start of the movie) and a featurette, in which the actors talk about the film, their parts in it and working with The Man (Ifans describes the character he plays: "He's very, very normal and I always find this strange.").

The best extra is Once Upon A Time Around Britain, a rough documentary about a coach trip that Meadows, his wife (she's terrific), select crew members and the joker in the pack (Ifans) take to publicise the movie. Rather than have a flash premiere in London that costs a fortune and is forgotten the next day, they decide to have a series of openings throughout the country. And the camera comes too.

Unlike the comic turns in Shane's World, the humour is spontaneous and, if Ifans has anything to do with it, hilarious. You are witnessing a group of people, who really get on, having a great time, which, because you're not there should feel nauseatingly self-indulgent, but doesn't. You learn to love them. It's a bit sad.

They speak at premieres, they make fun of the food in posh hotels, they talk to Mark and Lard in a Radio One studio, they smoke and forget about shaving, they read their reviews (Ifans has unrepeatable things to say about The Daily Telegraph) and they fool about on a bus.

It's so childish, it's beautiful.

Reviewed on: 12 Sep 2003
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Once Upon A Time In The Midlands packshot
Rhys Ifans and Robert Carlyle tussle for the affections of Shirley Henderson.
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Product Code: VCD0260

Region: 2

Sound: Dolby Digital

Extras: Shane

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