Reviewed by: Gator MacReady

Colin is braindead. He's devoted to his wife and loves her a great deal, but he has no life of his own and nothing to offer outside of a working class home and a job at a newsagent. Most of his time is spent sitting in the shop staring into space. The occasional customer leaves without paying and he doesn't have the guts to ask for the money. He would probably be afraid of his own shadow and is always alone, even in marriage. Reaching out and talking to people is difficult for him and he's more than just a tad insecure.

His only highlight of the day is the darts game down at the pub. Eric Bristow is his hero and he dreams of meeting him. Sadly, no dreams will ever be realised for poor Colin, as every day follows the same old routine.

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That is, until Sandra (Jane Robbins), his wife, runs off to Blackpool with the darts team captain Geoff, the copper who doesn't pay for his magazines. He is so devastated that he takes advice from his dad and travels over moors and fields to Blackpool on his cruddy moped to win her back.

The journey becomes a voyage of self-discovery. What makes it more interesting than, say, Britney Spears' Crossroads, is Michael Sheen's loveable performance - imagine a fat Alan Davies. It's impossible not to feel for the guy, especially in the scene where his moped is destroyed.

In the past, every person he comes across is nasty too him, or out to use him. But, as soon as he takes to the road, he makes new friends and finds out that more people than he would ever have imagined think he's cool. A troupe of girl scouts are even dismayed at his departure. Along the way, he meets Ron (Mark Addy with a ginger afro) and his glum bit-on-the-side. Apparently, he's not the only misery guts around.

Most of the plot seems a bit superfluous, but the story and outcome works very well. My only grouch is that once again England is portrayed as grimy, grey and filled with cigarette smoke. While this is mostly true, it's not easy on the eye. However, it does give Colin even more reason to leave his miserable dump of a home.

For an uplifting tale about an ordinary man, who is not a recovering alcoholic, or a typical British waster, then check this out. You'll always be on the side of Colin and be rooting for him more than you did Austin Powers or Frank the Pug.

Reviewed on: 22 Aug 2002
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Big-time loser turns his life around when he travels to Blackpool in an effort to win back his estranged wife.
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Angus Wolfe Murray ***

Director: Damien O’Donnell

Writer: Paul Fraser

Starring: Michael Sheen, Mark Addy, Jim Carter, Ruth Jones, Celia Imrie, Jane Robbins, Mark Strong, Paul Shane, Phillipa Peak, Jade Rhodes

Year: 2002

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK/US


EIFF 2002

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Once Upon A Time In The Midlands