A film that defeats the endeavours of its talented cast.


Timothy Spall and Juno Temple


In the end credits of this film the copyright date is 2015. That suggests that its release has been long delayed and, despite valiant efforts by the cast, one can all too easily understand why this might be so. The film’s publicity refers to it as a story set in Blackpool tracing the eventual bond between two contrasted people. One is 59-year-old widower Joseph (Timothy Spall) and the other, young enough to be his daughter, is Ria (Juno Temple) who has escaped from former drug addiction but not from other aspects of her troubled past. Discovering that Joseph is suicidal, Ria feels a duty to help him and, indeed, what develops is not a conventional love story with an age gap but a portrait of mutual dependency akin to what a young woman might find with a caring father.


With strong, sensitive writing this could be a very workable tale, and it sounds like a straightforward one. However, Roger Hadfield, offering his first feature length screenplay to be filmed, lets the dialogue fall into banality while the plotting grows increasingly unpersuasive. Furthermore, whether one blames Hadfield or the director David Blair, the film sprouts remarkably confusing flashbacks not always readily identifiable as such. The better news is that the photographer, Felix Wiedemann, does well in capturing the atmosphere of Blackpool out of season - except that is when Blair insists on shots supposedly converting the drabness into a fairy-tale dream of hope. Lights play a part here, but so too do songs including one rendered with stylised images: this suggests a musical and that clashes utterly with the grim background stories of both Joseph and Ria.


In any case, the storytelling lacks clarity to a serious degree while the ultimate resolution of the tale totters into absurdity (passing reminders of Amour (2012) and of Brighton Rock (1947) only emphasise how inept this piece is). Spall is too good an actor not to make some mark even with this refractory material and Hayley Squires (so much better off in I, Daniel Blake) and Matt Ryan offer what support they can in subsidiary roles. As for Juno Temple, her performance as Ria, extrovert where Joseph is introvert, finds her pouring her heart and soul into her role. It is ironic - and sad - that what may well be the best work that she has ever done on film should be in a movie so misjudged that no one can save it.




Cast: Timothy Spall, Juno Temple, Matt Ryan, Tony Pitts, Hayley Squires, Susan Lynch, Terry Stone, Reece Noi, Joanna Roth.


Dir David Blair, Pro Michael Knowles, Terry Stone and Richard Turner, Screenplay Roger Hadfield, Ph Felix Wiedemann, Pro Des Pawlo Wintoniuk, Ed Kate Reid, Music Anne Dudley, Costumes Barbara Kidd.


Gateway Films/Ratio Film/Slam Films-101 Films.
105 mins. UK. 2016. Rel: 12 May 2017. Cert. 15.