Eye For Film >> Movies >> Treacle Jr (2010) Film Review
Reviewed by: Anton Bitel
A middle-aged man has breakfast with his wife and baby son, drives off in the car as though going to work but instead catches a cross-country train into London, where he throws away his cell phone and credit cards – without quite managing to let go of a photo of his loved ones – and begins sleeping rough.
This is Tom Evans (Tom Fisher) – a settled, educated middle-class professional who is suffering a deep depression and just wants to lose himself at rock bottom. He is a taciturn man, and his breakdown and self-exile form the near wordless sequence that opens Jamie Thraves' Treacle Jr - but things will not be staying quiet for very long.
After a late-night run-in with some hoodlums in a park, Tom ends up in a casualty ward, where another walk-in patient, also there to have a black eye looked over, attaches himself to Tom like a limpet. A cheery Irishman with a speech impediment and a mild mental disability, Aidan (Aidan Gillen) never stops talking. "Am I annoying you?" he asks Tom when they meet – and at first he truly is annoying to Tom and viewer alike. Both, though, will soon warm to Aidan's infectious innocence and optimism, and his seeming inability to be put down by a terrible past and difficult present - including abandonment at birth, sexual abuse in the orphanage and physical violence and financial exploitation at the hands of his streetsmart 'girlfriend' Linda (Riann Steele). Despite all this, Aidan sees the good in everything and everyone, and greets with a smile whatever hits him.
Soon Tom will join Linda and the kitten Treacle Jr as another stray in Aidan's south London council flat - even if a seam of dysfunction, not to mention Linda's severe cat allergies, ensures that there is trouble ahead for this looseknit "family". Still, as his friendship develops with Aidan, Tom will gradually reconnect with his own "rough life" and his fragile sense of self, while helping to realise his new landlord's dreams.
The third feature from the writer/director of The Low Down (2000) and The Cry Of The Owl (2009), this is a low-budget, entirely independent production that focuses on characters and circumstances that are more usually overlooked, while conforming to an otherwise familiar 'odd couple' template. The contrasts in education, class and outlook between likable buffoon Aidan and his 'straight man' Tom, though certainly funny, also come with an underlying pathos, as both men struggle to find their place in the world - the one privileged but suicidal, the other repeatedly downtrodden but still following the joyful rhythms of his own drum.
In keeping with the film's overall tone, Thraves' direction is low-key and naturalistic, shot in real Dulwich and Herne Hill locations – but that is not to say that the writer/director lacks an eye for the odd touch of poeticism. Here we see a wide shot of Tom lying under a massive, isolated tree, there a black ladybird crawling away from the slough that was its home, and everywhere the reddening signs of autumn and the chill winter to come. Meanwhile, the two central performances alone are enough to keep us engaged and entertained all the way through to the treacly - but not too treacly - end.Reviewed on: 25 Oct 2010