Eye For Film >> Movies >> Chicken (2014) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Joe Stephenson's directorial debut is a slightly uneven but ultimately moving drama that announces both himself and young actor Scott Chambers as up-and-coming talents to look out for.
Chambers plays Richard, a teenager with unspecified learning difficulties and a sunny outlook, who ekes out a lonely existence in the countryside under the domineering eye and frequently violent hand of his older brother Polly (Morgan Watkins, who is also to be seen in Scottish Mussel, which also has its world premiere at Edinburgh Film Festival). Richard's isolation and desire to be loved are emphasised from the outset by his desperate attempts to win his sibling's affection with breakfast and his one-sided conversations with his chicken best pal Fiona.
When Richard meets Annabell (Yasmin Paige) - a bored teenager who has just moved from London to the area - her friendship starts to offer some hope.
The territory here, with its rural problem home and frequent magic hour shots from director of photography Eben Bolter, recalls that of Guy Myhill's The Goob. But while the strengths of Myhill's film lay in the realistic rural setting, here things have a more fairy tale quality that focuses on the characters' arc. Meanwhile, the narrative, based on a play by Freddie Machin that has been adapted by Chris New, has some surprises up its sleeve and Stephenson opens out the drama to give it a genuinely cinematic feel.
There's a tendency towards the soapy in the early scripting back and forths with Polly - although Stephenson uses his camera well to emphasise the dominance of the elder boy by frequently letting his features oppressively fill the frame. The script could have used another pass in development, to help round out the characters more and, in particular, to make Richard's initial encounter with Annabell more smooth and believable.
It is well worth sticking with a few early glitches, however, as once Stephenson commits fully to melodrama Chicken starts to build up an emotional head of steam. Chambers doesn't over-emphasise his performance and by keeping it small makes Richard believable and sympathetic. Paige also lends Annabell just enough edge to keep the dynamic between her and the hapless Richard plausible, while the optimism of Richard's character offers a continual ray of hope. Watkins also does well, although he has less to work with, so that by the time confrontation builds to climax you'll care what happens not only to Richard but, perhaps surprisingly, to Polly as well.Reviewed on: 26 Jun 2015