Borrowed Time

Borrowed Time


Reviewed by: Robert Munro

Borrowed Time takes a welcome approach to the often predictably grim London youth delinquent film, even if it doesn’t quite hit its mark often enough to become something truly remarkable. Funded through the Film London Microwave program – which has recently hit the headlines with its film Ill Manors – this micro-budget feature from first time writer/director Jules Bishop plays out more like a tragicomic fairytale than a social-realist examination of inner-city problems.

The title refers to our two main protagonists: Kevin (Theo Barklem-Biggs), a young man ostensibly barred from last chance saloon for previous misdemeanours; and the gnarly old bloke he tries to rob, Philip, played by stalwart of British screens Philip Davis. The two form an unlikely and often volatile bond as outsiders both living on ‘borrowed time’. Kevin’s propensity to be light fingered has led to him being kicked out by his older sister, and he unwillingly becomes a pawn in an extortion game played out by all round bad-guy Ninja Nigel.

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Philip, on the other hand, has lost his friends and family through battles with alcoholism, and now lives alone in a museum of his own making, surrounded by eerie looking stuffed animals. As Kevin tries to right his past wrongs, make up with his sister and shake off the psychotic attentions of the aforementioned Ninja Nigel – who believes Kevin owes him £500 for a rigged drug deal – he unintentionally finds an ally in Philip.

Ninja Nigel is, however, emblematic of the film’s small weaknesses. In striving too hard to be funny, Bishop occasionally seems to lose sight of what makes the film work – the strength of Kevin’s relationship with his sister, her son and the old bugger Philip. The whole Ninja Nigel character and story arc, while essential to the plot, is slightly too overplayed to remain in keeping with the natural humour which exists in the rest of the film.

And there are funny moments to be found. Philip’s impersonation of the normally inimitable Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry and the “Do you feel lucky...?” speech is a gem. Changing the word punk to an all together naughtier, yet similar sounding word, works a treat. Then there’s the gentle interactions between Kevin and his nephew. When the little one repeatedly questions a gentleman suitor at Becky’s door, and is met with a “steady on” response, Kevin quickly quips: “He’s only four, he can be as unsteady as he likes.”

The work of cinematographer David Rom is worth a mention here too. Along with Bishop, the two create a film which is visually interesting and often rather poetic. Choosing their shots wisely, they get the balance spot-on when it comes to making the most of the wasteland environment through which young Kevin roams. Both leads provide strong performances, making their relationship convincing despite the unusual circumstances which brought it to life.

Kevin and Philip both find a sort of redemption, without it becoming overly sentimental or clichéd, by the end of the film. It finishes a sound and accomplished début feature from Bishop, who’s managed to create a likeable and enjoyable film made for the equivalent of a packet of crisps and a Curly-Wurly.

Reviewed on: 20 Jun 2012
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Low-budget crime drama about two misfits.
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EIFF 2012

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