New Cross


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

New Cross
"Not just a little tragic, not just a little life-affirming, but touching, moving."

Karl works in advertising in London. Specifially billboards, pasting them up. It's a life free of glamour, of romance. At least, until he meets Bailey.

This is part of Channel 4's Coming Up scheme, pairing first time writers and directors with credible budgets, good casts, all the power that one of Britain's great film-making engines can bring. Here, Writer Laura Neal and director David Stoddart have crafted a touching and disturbing portait of young love.

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Perhaps too young - that's the point. Karl is, well, not sheltered, but a little out of it. Picked on by his colleagues, what's left of his family. He meets Bailey in a nightclub in the small hours, takes her home. Things are not quite as they seem, however, and when he discovers just which birthday she's got coming up he attempts to break things off.

Russel Tovey is Karl - bullet head, worried frown, always glancing downwards. He's most famous for BBC3's supernatural Being Human, something like Hammer Horror's version of Friends. He's got a good line in looking lost, and he's given plenty of reasons. Alice Sanders (or Saunders) is Bailey, managing to be precocious and beguiling while her performance, Neal's script, Stoddart's direction all keep her just the right side of "manic pixie dream girl". We're given just enough of each of them to know the whys and wherefores - difficult enough in features to establish character, even harder in shorts, but well done here.

There's also a good supporting cast, an entertainingly apposite discussion as to what Lost In Translation was about, and some beautifully framed shots. A sequence on a railway signal bridge "why would they put a ladder here if it wasn't safe?" is all about taking risks and the sometimes intangible rewards, and their first meeting in a nightclub toilet is beautifully observed. It's an awkward situation for its main character, and for all the rights and wrongs of this particular presentation it's still murky water for film. It's not without consequence for either party, and while it's dangerous ground it's fair to say that New Cross treads it well.

Coming Up stalwart Dan Parry does the music, and while he is ridiculously talented (providing seven different and good scores for this year's Coming Up series) a little of Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine might not have gone amiss. The nightclub scene feels suitably dingy, even without, so too the boozer where an awkward near-family dinner is meant to take place. Workplaces and street corners and underpasses are all caught with a documentary eye, and while it's not as bleak as 'Home' it's still a London short of both aspiration and opportunity.

With a simple, somewhat looping structure, New Cross manages to say something meaningful about escapes, traps, and our ability to act on incomplete information. It's not just a little tragic, not just a little life-affirming, but touching, moving. There's a flattened affect to it all, an isolating cotton wool distance of depression and ennui and desperation. Opening this year's Coming Up strand, it's a good signal not only of the ability of its cast, a strong debut for a new writer and director, but also of Channel 4's commitment to short film as a vehicle for developing talent.

Reviewed on: 03 Jul 2012
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A troubling tale of forbidden love.

Director: David Stoddart

Writer: Laura Neal

Starring: Alex Lanipekun, Alice Sanders, Georgia Brown, Jordan Long, Russell Tovey

Year: 2012

Runtime: 23 minutes

Country: UK


EIFF 2012

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