Eric Love, 19, is locked up in prison. On first day he assaults another inmate and several guards. He's offered group therapy and his dad, an inmate as well, tries to talk sense into him. Can he be rehabilitated?
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Eric Love is a 19 year old teenager who is so violent he has been 'Starred Up' (Moved to Adult prison) where he finds his father Neville who Eric hasn't seen since he was 5 (since he was put into care). Neville tries to get Eric to settle down, so Eric gets a chance to go through therapy with Oliver.Written by
A generally fine effort that brings the brutal world of Brit prisons into the 21st century
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning
Eric Love (Jack O'Connoll) is a couple of years younger than necessary to be transferred from a young offender's institution to an adult prison, but due to his explosively violent nature, a rare exception has been made. He seems under control, until he is disturbed while sleeping by another inmate and ferociously over-reacts. After trying and failing to talk his way out of the situation, his inflamed, anti-authoritarian streak bursts to life and he proves tricky for Governor Hayes (Sam Spruell) and his staff to deal with. From here, he encounters two people who may be the key to turning him round: dedicated social worker Oliver (Rupert Friend) and Neville (Ben Mendolsohn) the equally violent head of the wing...who also happens to be his dad.
While the harsh reality of prison life is rarely glossed over in any sort of filmed medium, save for maybe Ronnie Barker's hit sitcom Porridge, since the late '70's nothing quite like Alan Clarke's Scum has come close to matching the gritty brutality and hopelessness of prison life, leaving it a genre just begging to be dragged in to the 21st century with a fresh injection of raw adrenaline. The opening half of David Mackenzie's film seems to rely on atmosphere rather than exposition, with a dialogue light opening half as the lead protagonist is lead to his cell, and made to go through the various rituals and indignities on his way there until the door is locked shut. When O'Connoll first speaks (in a cockney accent!) it's with the prison lingo that will make no sense to those who don't know it, and from there on in he frequently opens his mouth with savage ferocity and intense profanity.
Starred Up is hailed as O'Connoll's 'break through' film, and there's no doubt he's running the show here, firmly commanding his presence as the explosive thug with raging personal issues blaring inside him, in a role that he's got form with and suits well. It's the closest thing he may well have in making him a household name, or at least getting a cult following among some. There are strong supporting turns also from Friend as the impassioned social worker and Mendolsohn as the closest thing to an authority figure O'Connoll will be made to respect. It's a film driven more by the nature of his respective relationships with these two men, and as such it feels more about these human dynamics rather than the story, which by the end has lost it's coherence a bit and loses your attention, despite the ensuing events still holding your attention for other reasons.
Still, sometimes, a film needs to come along that hits you like a punch in the dark, and Starred Up fits the bill perfectly, a brutal, unflinching expose of a world most of us probably don't want to imagine, a little flawed, but mostly solid. ****
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