Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Nesbitt is magnificent, letting us see the weight of all those years of regret and self-hatred but also the joy that comes from approaching life in a new way and helping somebody else gain confidence."

Age may not have treated Jack (Derren Nesbitt) as kindly as he'd like, but he's one of those people whom one doesn't really expect to die. With the amount of drink he puts away, he ought to be safely pickled. There's an innate vigour about him, especially when he's dressed up in a wig and a fabulous frock, strutting his stuff onstage as alter-ego Jackie. His jokes are older than he is but the customers don't seem to mind - they play into that great British tradition of faux shock and outrage where everybody likes a bit of naughtiness and there's nothing like a dame. But a diagnosis of terminal cancer - with just a few weeks remaining - forces him to confront a difficult truth. His daughter having broken off contact a decade ago, he has no family left. Neither does he have any real friends. He only feels alive when he performs - perhaps because it's the only time he's really himself.

Fortunately for Jack, things are about to change.

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Faith (Jordan Stephens) is a young non-binary person who's new to the art of drag. At the request of a colleague, and without protest, Jack takes them under his wing, ready to act as a guide to how it all works ("Rule number one: no fucking the customers"). But the relationship quickly becomes something more. Horrified to learn that Faith is sleeping in their car, Jack offers a comfortable couch, and is surprised to wake up to find his breakfast being cooked for him. "You're like the straight cross-dressing grandad I never had," says Faith. And despite the generational difference between them, despite the confusion it creates, they begin to explore the world together like a couple of brash, ambitious adventurers.

Storylines like this can easily become twee, but director Jamie Patterson approaches the film with a light touch, trusting the actors to do their thing. He finds comedy in the culture shock elements of the story without overdoing it, and explores the tragic aspects of Jack's life, his struggle to find a comfortable way of understanding himself in a prejudiced world, without getting mawkish. Nesbitt is magnificent, letting us see the weight of all those years of regret and self-hatred but also the joy that comes from approaching life in a new way and helping somebody else gain confidence. Stephens shows us the naivety and clumsiness of youth without becoming obnoxious. The chemistry between them is great and they're aided by some fine supporting performances, with Steve Oram fantastic as ever in the role of a drug dealer who resentfully declares that the pair's approach to gender is confusing, but doesn't want to miss out on a sale.

An odd couple tale with a lot of heart, Tucked is a real charmer, a celebration of growing old disgracefully and a celebration of how society has changed for the better. Warm hearted and easy to engage with, whatever your own background, it's deserving of a wide audience.

Reviewed on: 29 Jul 2018
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A ageing drag queen who has just received a terminal cancer diagnosis discovers a new love for life when he befriends a younger queen who is just starting out.
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Director: Jamie Patterson

Writer: Jamie Patterson

Starring: Derren Nesbitt, Jordan Stephens, April Pearson, Steve Oram, Lucy-Jane Quinlan

Year: 2018

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: UK


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