London to Brighton (UK - DVD R2)
Scott McKenzie ventures into the seedy underworld of the south of England...
In the early hours one morning, two prostitutes run into a public toilet. Kelly, the older one, is bruised and battered, while twelve-year-old Joanne is crying her eyes out. They’ve left their customer bleeding to death on his bedroom floor and now his son, a very disagreeable character, is looking for them. He tells their pimp he has twenty-four hours to find them or he’s going to kill him. Kelly takes Joanne from London to Brighton, trying to raise enough money the only way she knows how to get Joanne to her grandmother’s house in Dorset. Someone’s going to die, but who, and when?
Produced by Vertigo Films, the company that brought us The Football Factory and The Business, you could be forgiven for expecting an enjoyable movie filled with violence and blokey banter. What London To Brighton actually delivers is grim, gritty realism with only a few funny moments to lighten the dark mood. Writer/director Paul Andrew Williams is at pains to bring us the reality and complete lack of glamour of the seedy back streets of England and he does so thoroughly convincingly.
The non-linear story follows Joanne as she is plucked off the streets by Kelly to be taken to a man who wants to ‘play with her’, with Joanne receiving £100 for her trouble. We see her as both a young child and as a girl trying to look older to survive in a world in which she doesn’t belong. One particular edit from a scene in the past to a scene in the present contrasts her real personality with the personality she has to adopt to survive on the streets two days after running away from home. The character of Joanne is played by first-timer Georgia Groome and she is so believable in the role that I expect to see her cropping up in many British movies in years to come. I’m a big fan of Thirteen and I’d compare her performance here to that of Evan Rachel Wood in that movie.
The scene that made this movie for me was the first meeting between Joanne, Kelly and her pimp, Derek. Derek and Kelly both know they are doing something terribly wrong by talking Joanne into doing something they know she shouldn’t. It’s a very well-written scene and the performances are spot-on, leaving the viewer feeling almost as awkward as the characters on screen. After watching this scene, it’s easy to see why girls with low self-esteem and nothing to live for may be convinced to turn to prostitution, no matter how young they may be.
London to Brighton is a short movie and has a very simple story. It is fast-moving and efficient, no doubt partly imposed by its quick shoot and very low shooting budget, which was just £80,000. The flashback structure works well to keep the viewer guessing until we find out exactly what happened in the man’s bedroom that caused the girls to go on the run. The showdown at the end has a twist in the tale, which is pretty predictable, but this isn’t a movie that depends on a twist to make an impact.
As an enjoyable piece of entertainment, it’s difficult to recommend London to Brighton as a popcorn movie. However, as a guerrilla piece of filmmaking that is a prime example of how to tell a believable story with credible performances from the actors for almost no budget, I wholeheartedly recommend London to Brighton. It throws a spotlight on the underworld that most of us are lucky enough to avoid and has an impact on the viewer that will keep you thinking about it long after you’ve hit the stop button.
London to Brighton comes with a 2.35:1 anamorphic picture. The picture is almost as gritty as the subject matter, but this is not due to the transfer to DVD, this is almost certainly due to the technology available due to the low budget. There’s blurring and graininess but coupled with the handheld camerawork, it lends the film an extra dimension of edginess. Close ups are used frequently but the characters aren’t beautiful people who are supposed to look pixel perfect so the relatively low quality of the picture is not as much of a problem as it may be if this was a presentation of a major Hollywood blockbuster.
It’s a similar story for the audio quality, although there are moments in the stereo track that stand out. The scenes in the toilet and train station have an appropriate amount of echo coming through and the classical score sounds good, certainly better than the dialogue, which sounds a little tinny and very occasionally makes the characters sound like they’ve got a lisp. An audio descriptive track is also available on this release.
The disc opens with trailers for Bobby, Hannibal Rising and the theatrical trailer for London to Brighton is also included. The highlight of the special features is the commentary track with the director, director of photography and the actors who played Derek and Kelly. It’s a very interesting talk track filled with details that are invaluable to anyone who’s thinking of making a low budget movie. The actors also reveal that they spent a lot of time working out a back story for their characters, which explains some of the reasons for their actions on screen.
The alternative ending and deleted scenes are all shown as rough footage without director commentary, which would have been welcome to explain the reasons for their exclusion. The deleted scenes are actually no more than extended versions of scenes that made it into the movie and I’m glad the alternative ending wasn’t used because it would have meant leaving the viewer on more of a down note. The outtakes are also rough footage and amount to less than a minute of screen time.
The behind the scenes featurette is composed of rough footage and while we get to see what goes on behind the camera, there’s not really a lot of substance. Of more interest is the (still roughly filmed) Q&A session with the cast and crew. We probably learn more about the making of the movie in this featurette than the behind the scenes footage. The producer goes into detail about the exact budget and the director reveals that many of the locations used are friends’ homes. Finally, the director’s short film ‘Royalty’ is included on the disc, which is another story about Derek and Kelly from the same world that London to Brighton is set in.
I can highly recommend London to Brighton to anyone who is looking for a well-written, well-acted slice of low budget British film making that while not epic in scope or length, still has a lot to say and a point to make about British life. The quality of the presentation isn’t going to blow you away but it’s acceptable for the tone of the movie. Some of the extras are filler material but the commentary, Q&A and short film complement the feature very well. It’s not a movie for everyone but it’ll definitely make an impression on anyone who watches it.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 30th April 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Extras: Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Behind The Scenes Featurette, 'Royalty' Short Film, Alternative Ending, Outtakes, Georgia Groome Audition Tape, Q&A, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Paul Andrew Williams
Cast: Lorraine Stanley, Georgia Groome, Johnny Harris, Sam Spruell
Length: 83 minutes
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