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Sidse Babett Knudsen,
It's 3:07am and two girls burst into a run down London toilet. Joanne is crying her eyes out and her clothing is ripped. Kelly's face is bruised and starting to swell. Duncan Allen lies in his bathroom bleeding to death. Duncan's son, Stuart, has found his father and wants answers. Derek, Kelly's pimp, needs to find Kelly or it will be him who pays. Kelly and Joanne need to get through the next 24 hours alive... Written by
Grim but well worth it thanks to performances, structure and delivery
The quiet in a London toilet is broken at 03:07 when a woman and a girl burst into it beaten and crying. The elder, Kelly, puts young Joanne into one of the cubicles and goes to get train tickets and some food. Not long after they are on a train to Brighton and safety. Meanwhile back in London, the cold criminal Stuart Allen makes it painfully clear to small time pimp Derek that he wants Kelly and Joanne brought to him.
I heard that this film was very grim stuff and as a result I skipped it in the cinemas, although I was "helped" in this decision by how quickly it came and went in the cinema. Watching it now I have to say that it is a shame that the film did not get more viewers because it an incredibly well delivered thriller set in a world of pimps and gangsters. This aspect could represent a turn-off to many viewers who perhaps have had enough of Lock Stock copycats in the British cinema, but rest assured that it is far from being that type of thing. Where some films revel in the gangster cliché, this film presents it unflinchingly as a cruel world of violence, grime and exploitation populated by those with few choices and no hope. This is convincingly delivered and it puts the viewer right into it to the point where I did feel uncomfortable and trapped.
The story is simple and what makes it so impressive is how it is delivered rather than just what happens. The strength of the film is in the edit, which brings out the story in a flashback structure that works very well. It allows for a strong finish and consistent tension that runs across both timelines of the film equally. What is almost as impressive as the edit are the performances that Williams gets from his cast; they are natural and convincing and all the bleaker for it. Stanley is brilliant as someone morally disgusted by her world but equally unable to think of anything else available to her. Groome is just as good and is heartbreaking in the way she moves from a child to an adult between scenes, with a confidence that is only on the surface. Harris is suitably morally bankrupt a real "bad man", not a criminal with presence and power but the sort of man who would beat you for looking at him. Allen is a harder character because he does have to be a "crime lord" in this story of small fish but Spruell does pretty well to hold back and be a menacing force driving the story.
London to Brighton is not a cheerful film but it is a gripping thriller set in a convincing world of dirt and grubby people. The actors all convince and succeed in making us care for people giving £10 oral sex behind skips in the street but it is the structure and delivery of the story that makes it as good as it is, drawing tension simultaneously from both timelines of the same narrative. Grim but well worth it.
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