County Durham is the setting for what is both a family tale and a crime drama. 



Just the other day when reviewing Philophobia I remarked on the encouraging fact that so many talented new film directors have recently made first features and now, lo and behold, we have yet another example. Rene van Pannevis is Dutch but is based in England and some of his own experiences are reflected in the story that he has chosen to tell set in Hartlepool. The opening scene of Looted very neatly blends pictures of its central character, Rob played by Charley Palmer Rothwell, with a voice-over comment from his father, Oswald (Tom Fisher). The latter's remarks tell us of how as a merchant seaman far from home he had received the news of his son's birth, while the images reveal that Rob is now in his early twenties and in some kind of trouble.


To get the film under way, several key facts quickly emerge. We learn that Oswald has contracted cancer from asbestos while at sea and has therefore now returned to Durham. He is in fact dying in the house which he shares with his son. Rob is caring enough to accept the need to act as cook and carer but is unemployed and at a loose end, a situation in which he lets himself be influenced by his unscrupulous best mate, Leo (Thomas Turgoose). It is due to Leo that he takes part in stealing a car for delivery to a local criminal (Daniel-John Williams) who deals in them. Before long a more dangerous assignment comes Leo's way and he is keen for Rob to participate in it as a driver. Thus Looted becomes in part a study of a youth who could all too easily find himself deeply involved in a criminal underworld but equal weight is given to the difficult father/son relationship. Oswald had been a largely absent father insufficiently close to his son but is now reliant on this child who, although prepared to do his duty, understandably bears underlying resentment for having been neglected.


There is one other central figure here and that is a Polish girl named Kasia who is living locally and has attached herself to Leo. Looted is a film very ably acted by all, but what is unexpected is the warmth brought to the role of Kasia, not least in the scenes in which she finds an unexpected rapport with Oswald. The actress concerned is Morgane Polanski and, yes, she is indeed the daughter of Roman Polanski and Emmanuelle Seigner. Arguably the strength of the film lies rather more in the acting than in the storyline since there's something comparatively commonplace in stories about adolescents caught up in communities from which they desire to escape and move on. Consequently, in part, but only in part, this film treads familiar ground. Furthermore, the telling of the story is not without weaknesses (for example, one wants to know more about Kasia and her background than the film tells us and, while the location is well used, the absence of neighbours and other acquaintances rather stands out). But even so what really counts is that the characters featured come to life so persuasively and, even if Rene van Pannevis fails to make a choice that would give the film a decisive final shot, for the most part he directs very well indeed. Both for him and for Morgane Polanski, Looted is a film that points to an interesting future .




Cast: Charley Palmer Rothwell, Thomas Turgoose, Tom Fisher, Morgane Polanski, Anders Hayward, Stephen Uppal, Gary Davison, Daniel-John Williams.


Dir Rene van Pannevis, Pro Jennifer Eriksson and Jessie Mangum, Screenplay Rene van Pannevis and Kefi Chadwick, from a story by Ashish Ghadiali and Rene van Pannevis, Ph Aadel Nodeh-Farahani, Pro Des Luke Moran-Morris, Ed Christian Sandino-Taylor and Dave Silver, Music Tony Coote and Philip Achille, Costumes Michelle May.


Film London/BBC Films/BFI/Silk Screen Pictures/Thought Experiment/Microwave-Bulldog Film Distribution.
89 mins. UK. 2019. Rel: 6 November 2020. Available on Curzon Home Cinema and on BFI Player. Cert. 15.