Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

What does release mean to you? When we're talking about a prison film, where everyone is counting the days, there's an obvious literal interpretation, but even that is complicated. Despite the ugliness of prison life (and there's plenty of that here), transitioning to life outside can be difficult. That's especially so for Jack (Daniel Brocklebank), a young priest whose dreams of freedom are marred by the memory of the crime he has committed.

Jack is seeking release from his memories and his all-pervading sense of guilt. A slender prospect of that release is offered when he embarks on a passionate affair with a sympathetic guard, but there's still more trouble awaiting him. As his fellow prisoners come to harbour dark suspicions about the nature of his crime, they go to work on his brutalised teenage cellmate, trying to convince the naive youngster to take violent action.

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Intelligent, thoughtful thrillers structured around gay characters are few and far between, so it's not surprising that Release has gained plaudits from the gay press. That said, looked at simply as a film, it has a lot of weaknesses. Chief among these is that it's trying far too hard to look arty. Jack's golden-tinged, soft focus dreams recall Lassie Come Home and are clumsily edited. The shots of bodies do some genuinely interesting things, comparing the sprawling victims of beatings to lovers curled up blissfully in one another's arms, but there's a sense that this approach to style gets in the way when it comes to faces, with everybody either impassive or impassioned.

The actors are competent but don't get room to do their thing. The result is a story that feels far too slow in places, failing to grip the viewer when it really ought to be ramping up emotional tension. The love story is genuinely moving, with great chemistry between the stars, but the thriller never really, well, thrills.

Release is left feeling rather flat, with brief interludes of high quality filmmaking too few and far between. It is nevertheless a promising calling card - there's a lot of talent on display, it just hasn't yet managed to fuse in the way this type of film depends on. As an exploration of contemporary masculinities it makes the obvious points with a degree of style, and although its resolution is ultimately formulaic there are moments of genuine pathos. Brocklebank fans should make sure not to miss it.

Reviewed on: 11 Oct 2010
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Release packshot
An imprisoned priest struggles to find personal redemption as he falls in love with a guard and faces suspicion from other inmates.
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Director: Darren Flaxstone, Christian Martin

Writer: Darren Flaxstone, Christian Martin

Starring: Daniel Brocklebank, Garry Summers, Bernie Hodges, Wayne Virgo, Simon Pearce, Dymphna Skehill

Year: 2010

Runtime: 87 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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