Eye For Film >> Movies >> Side By Side (2013) Film Review
Side By Side
Reviewed by: Anton Bitel
Teenager Lauren Buckle (Bel Powley) has been running all her life. At first she was pushed into competitive footracing by her father - and after he and Lauren's mother died in an accident, she has reluctantly committed herself to continuing because her Olympics potential affords the best hope she has of staying together with her younger brother Harvey (Alfie Field) now that their Alzheimers-afflicted nan Joan (Diana Quick) is no longer able to care for them. Yet when, on the day they are due to move in with Lauren's scheming sponsor Janice (Sara Stewart), Harvey scampers off on a hare-brained search for their long-lost grandfather in Scotland, Lauren finds herself running once again, side-by-side with the brother she has barely had time to get to know.
The physical journey undertaken by these squabbling siblings also maps out their separate (yet shared) searches for identity. If Harvey is on a fool's errand, commissioned by a demented woman to track down his lost roots, he will tackle it like a knight on a quest, using all the skills and some of the contacts that he has acquired obsessively playing online adventure game World of Dragons. On the way he will face his own personal dragon in the form of a train like the one on which his parents were killed. In the meantime, Lauren will not only recognise for the first time her brother's odd talents, but will also find a way to stop running (both literally and metaphorically) and finally start pursuing her own hidden abilities rather than other people's expectations of her.
These rites of passage are beautifully shot in an idyllic English - and latterly Scottish - countryside. Unfortunately, however, despite some good performances, Side By Side is a meandering, overlong trek of a film, populated by broadly drawn and broadly unengaging characters, accompanied by irksome folk music, and padded out lazily with fart jokes.
It is endearing that the Tinker, a fellow wanderer the children encounter on their travels, is played by Powley's actual father Mark even as he adopts an increasingly paternal attitude towards his itinerant guests - but his scenes never seem relevant enough to justify their duration. Yes, he appears to have fallen out of touch with his own family, making him some kind of counterpoint to the Buckle's quest for familial reintegration. Yes he may be, like Lauren, a secretive artist. Yet all that cannot stop this episode, or the repetitive scenes of the children's ramblings (verbal or otherwise), or the montages of Harvey playing at being an armed swordsman, from dragging under their own length. It does not help that much of the writing is banal and perfunctory, and that the children's pursuer Janice is, at least until the final scenes, little more than a pantomime villain. In the end, despite the prominence of running as a theme, it is chiefly a plodding pace that prevents Side by Side from being a winner.Reviewed on: 15 Oct 2013