Eye For Film >> Movies >> Auf Wiedersehen, Pet: Series One (1983) Film Review
Auf Wiedersehen, Pet: Series One
Reviewed by: Stephen Carty
Though Margaret Thatcher’s Prime Ministerial reign wasn’t exactly Britain’s finest hour, at least one good thing came out of it. Deciding to spin a yarn around Britain’s spiralling employment problems during the Iron Lady’s time in charge, creator Frank Roddam and writing team Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (of The Likely Lads and Porridge fame) blended Tyneside with Becks beer and Stallag 17 for a finely crafted slice of television. The result, was Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.
It sees Geordie brickies Dennis (Tim Healy), Oz (Jimmy Nail) and Neville (Kevin Whately) head off to Germany to seek work. Meeting up with fellow Brits - gentle giant Bomber (Pat Roach), scouse ex-con Moxey (Christopher Fairbank), cockney stallion Wayne (Gary Holton) and boring wallflower Barry (Timothy Spall) – the group bond together living in a dingy hut and get into a few scrapes.
Sure, today’s generation will probably dismiss it as boring and the dubious editing shows how aged it is, but this is a character-driven drama with a touch of magic to it. Perfectly encapsulating the nation’s job-related frustrations at the time, the writing is bang on the money, the detail highly impressive (due to filming in England thousands of German bricks were imported for realism purposes) and the banter so good you’ll want to share a hut with these guys (although maybes not if Oz has been clipping his toe nails).
And this is where the show’s strength lies. Offering a pitch-perfect understanding of male-bonding, guy-group dynamics and how a night out with the boys (“in a bar full of noise”) usually plays out, you really feel the budding camaraderie. Driven by the interactions and growing friendships between each of the seven leads, the dialogue interplay is often phenomenal (“she’s adorable, ain’t she?”… “Nah, she’s Krista”) and it speaks volumes that the best scenes are those where the group are just sitting about having some banter. Yes, there’s dull down time (Neville going to dinner with a co-worker, Dennis and Neville looking after an old man), but these unfrequent blips and any signs of being dated are soon forgotten when the lads start nattering about such issues about as preordained phenomenon or who the Irish of Europe are.
Complementing this is a cast that sparkles with raw talent and about-to-be-good faces. Though Fairbank’s stuttering arsonist Moxey largely serves as comic relief and Roach’s bearded colossus Bomber regularly fades into the background, this isn’t a bunch of barely-sketched stereotypes, as each one gets the chance to shine. Whately brings a sympathy to perpetual-worrier Neville, Holton is likeable as chirpy lothario Wayne and Spall shows raw talent as the accent-embellishing bore Barry. Rounding things off is a fine showing from Healey as de facto leader-come- group anchor Dennis, who gets more opportunities than most to sink his teeth into genuine emotional moments. You know, in between laying bricks.
However, the real find is Nail. Loud, course and frequently borderline-incomprehensible, his Oz is a genius creation who nabs every single scene he’s in. Full of uncouth manners, heavy northern gob and a complete opposition for all things German (throwing away toe-clippers; “made in Deutschland, I mighta knawn”), Nail’s comic-timing is rarely less than hoot-worthy. Wae aye, man, indeed.
Brilliantly-written, expertly-observed and just as well acted, Clement’s creation is a fantastic mix of comedy and era-capturing drama.Reviewed on: 06 Feb 2009