LOCARNO -- Be careful what you wish for is a maxim explored smartly by photographer and publisher Rankin and his co-director Chris Cottam
in their well measured little fable The Lives of the Saints
, set on the criminal streets of northeast London.
When a swift-moving courier known as the Roadrunner (Daon Broni
), who delivers everything from drugs to lottery tickets, stumbles over an unwashed and wide-eyed youngster (Sam MacLintock) in the park, the lives of several people start to change in the most unexpected way: Yhey begin to get what they want.
Mixing elements of the supernatural with street crime and aspects of religion, the film, debuting in competition at the Locarno International Film Festival, delivers a tidy punch and with the right support it could find an appreciative mainstream audience.
The Roadrunner, whose relentless need to be on the move is given gentle pause by his encounter with the child, drops him off at the home of Othello (David Leon), a slick young man who is prince to the local crime king Mr. Karva (James Cosmo
While his live-in girlfriend Tina (Emma Pierson
) sees the strange boy as just a kid, Othello interprets the youngster's oblique mutterings as words of prophecy. In writing down the unrelated letters the boy utters, he sees the names of the winners of horse and dog races, and is soon making a fortune in gambling.
The boy's gaze appears to entrance a chosen few including a waitress, Christella (Gillian Kearney
), and the local priest, Father Daniel Marc
Warren). By appearing to unleash their secret desires, the boy seems to prove that he is a benign oracle or, as some believe, an angel.
But with his riches, Othello grows independent of Karva, a colorful brute of a man, who views his own declining fortune with alarm. He seeks the child in order to return life to what he sees as its natural order, with him as its glowering ruler. So he employs Othello's dim sidekick, Emilio (Bronson Webb
), to do his dirty work. Karva and Emilio have hidden wishes too, however, and when the child grants them, the results complicate all their lives.
Rankin and Cottam employ Tony Grisoni's economical screenplay to great effect and the acting is outstanding. MacLintock is well cast as the wondrously calm boy with the haunting eyes and Cosmo makes a lively impression as the larger-than-life crime king. The film's humor is sly and inventive as the granted wishes take darkly comic and ultimately deadly turns.
Director of photography Baz Irvine
, production designer Mark Digby
and editor Chris Gill deserve praise for their contributions to an entertaining film that pleases with its look and pace as much as its content.
THE LIVES OF THE SAINTS
Dazed Film & TV
Directors: Rankin, Chris Cottam
Writer: Tony Grisoni
Producer: Laura Hastings-Smith
Executive producer: Augusto Romano
Director of photography: Baz Irvine
Production designer: Mark Digby
Music: Rob Lane
Editor: Chris Gill.
Cast: Othello: David Leon
The child: Sam MacLintock
Roadrunner: Daon Broni
Mr. Karva: James Cosmo
Tina: Emma Pierson
Emilio: Bronson Webb
Christella: Gillian Kearney
Father Daniel: Marc Warren
Mark Digby: James Holmes
Mad Turk: Peter Rnic
Drunk/Michali: Paddy Fletcher
Granny: Stella Quilley
Maqsood Junior: Raj Ghatak
Maqsood Senior: Reny Senta
No MPAA rating
Running time -- 100 minutes