Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"There's much here that recalls Ken Loach's I, Daniel Blake, but Mark Gillis' film takes a very different direction and is, in its way, much more subversive."

Micky (Martin Herdman) has lost his job. Perhaps that wouldn't be too difficult a situation to manage on its own. He's a skilled manual worker and can still get bits and pieces of work. But he has his dad to look after and now he can't afford the care home fees. He also has his dissolute son running out of cash and running into trouble. He's not prepared for how difficult it is to find proper employment. Zero hours contracts don't cut it. Gradually, the pressure forces him into making choices he would never have considered before.

There's much here that recalls Ken Loach's I, Daniel Blake, but Mark Gillis' film takes a very different direction and is, in its way, much more subversive. It's not simply about the brutalisation of the working class, but about the way that such experiences change people; not simply about a failure of government to provide needed support, but about what moves in to fill the gap. With no room for his father in his own small flat, Micky arranges a swap, under slightly dubious conditions, with sympathetic criminal landlord Paul (played by Gillis himself). It's the first in a series of small steps towards a new moral outlook, and it speaks to the experiences of thousands of people living in poverty who simply cannot afford to live in full accordance with the law.

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There's no sensationalism around crime as presented here. It's simply part of life, and not necessarily more compromising than some of the legitimate enterprises we encounter. It blends seamlessly into another aspect of life at the bottom that Gillis captures well: the ways in which communities rally to help those in need. Neighbours, recognising the difficulty of his situation, do what they can for Micky. We don't meet anybody who is wholly unsympathetic. It's the unreachable, unchangeable system that makes things difficult - and that everybody does their best to work around.

Herdman is superb in the central role, making Micky affable and human so that we stay with him through everything. He's believable at every stage of the journey and his comic timing contributes to the carefully managed humour that leavens bleaker moments. In places this is dark; in others, it is its very lightheartedness that reveals how much values have changed. Sometimes we find ourselves in dark interiors, sometimes out on the balcony at the edge of the housing estate, looking across at the City of London's shining towers.

Rather than focusing simply on the condemnation of injustice, Gillis gives his characters an agency that will appeal to audiences from diverse backgrounds. Herdman's charisma and a constant sense of momentum - even when Micky is struggling to move forward - make this film engaging, uncompromising, a real treat.

Reviewed on: 06 Oct 2018
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A man whose father is gradually sliding into dementia and who worries about his junkie son takes a drastic course of action.
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Director: Mark Gillis

Writer: Mark Gillis

Starring: Martin Herdman, Ian Hogg, Marlene Sidaway, Tracey Wilkinson, Josh Herdman, Mark Gillis, Sadie Shimmin, Joanna Monro, Karen Archer, Robert Calvert, Bradley Hall, Glen Supple, Ken Shorter, Anne Bird, Simon Hepworth

Year: 2018

Runtime: 87 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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