Pond Life

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Pond Life
"This is a film bursting with character and characters."

Trevor (Tom Varey) is thinking about moving away. There's a shortage of opportunities lately. He knows it will be difficult for those he leaves behind. He'll be in Doncaster and they'll remain in their village just outside.

We meet a lot of young people in Bill Buckhurst's d├ębut feature but none of them shares such big ambitions. They're a tight knit community, relying on one another for support, and none of them so much as Pogo (Esme Creed-Miles) relies on Trevor, for reasons that will take time to become clear. He know that his leaving is going to be particularly tough on her, so he wants to do something special for her first. Rumour has it that there's a giant carp living in the local pond - a fish so spectacular that everyone regards her with awe. Trevor and Pogo share a mutual passion for angling and, together with other local teenagers, plan to spend a night by the water to see if they can catch her.

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This is a film bursting with character and characters. There are young would-be tearaways Shane (Gianlucca Galluci) and Dave (Ethan Wilkie); there's Pogo's friend Malcolm (Angus Imrie) who is lovesick over Trevor's sister Cassie (Daisy Edgar-Jones, sporting the kind of rough-edged bleach-and-a-blowjob sex appeal that sets grim suburbs smouldering); and there's Maurice (Abraham Lewis), Cassie's boyfriend, just older enough to seem tougher and more sophisticated whilst being obviously a mess to anyone older than he is - but not without reason. Adults have their own issues to deal with but that's not where Buckhurst's focus is and the youngsters largely ignore them, roaming around the narrow streets and through the adjacent woods at will, caught up in the immediacy of life.

With fresh, naturalistic performances and a script written in the local dialect, Pond Life is engaging throughout. It will ring a bell with many people in rural communities, not least because of the number of similar legends out there. There's lots of humour, both in the dialogue and in the detailed observations of village life in the Nineties, from the clothes the kids wear to the songs they sing and the tape recorder Pogo carries with her everywhere, collecting fragments of ambient sound. We move through a landscape of newspaper deliveries, laundry, pub quizzes and jokes about the impertinence of would-be prime minister Tony Blair. There's nary a mention of school. Summer holidays can feel as if they'll go on forever.

Originally written as a play and adapted to the screen with wit and verve, Pond Life is a slice of life with rough edges. There's darkness in it but it's full of hope, a real charmer.

Reviewed on: 20 Apr 2019
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A giant carp is said to inhabit a pond outside Doncaster, inspiring its own Loch Ness Monster-style legend. One night, Trevor (Tom Varey) assembles friends, families and neighbours to embark on a fishing expedition that they will never forget.
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Director: Bill Buckhurst

Writer: Richard Cameron

Starring: Esmé Creed-Miles, Tom Varey, Angus Imrie

Year: 2018

Runtime: 99 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

Festivals:

Glasgow 2019

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