Saturday, 24 March 2012

Review: Wild Bill

Rating: 15
Duration: 98 mins

Dexter Fletcher helms his début feature, as he follows in the footsteps of compatriot Paddy Considine's recent success with Tyrannosaur, making the effortless transition from actor to writer/director.

Fletcher opts for a similar route as Peter Mullan and Shane Meadows, with social commentary of the grimy working-class endeavour that befalls some of the less privileged regions of the UK. Wild Bill takes us to East London with a visceral and fantastically raw -- if not previously explored -- look at the everyday struggle of abandoned brothers Dean (Will Poulter) and Jimmy (Sammy Williams). They're left to fend for themselves; their mother having absconded to Spain with a new boyfriend and estranged father Bill (Charles Creed-Miles) is left to pick up the pieces of their dysfunctional family after a recent release from prison.

Both Fletcher and Danny King co-write a script that might wander previously trodden ground, but it's a breath of fresh air with heart, emotional dexterity and approach. The story crams in a lot of bad blood early on: notably some resentfulness aimed at a hapless Bill from a disheartened Dean who cannot forgive him for 'leaving' to serve an eight year stretch. Bitter one-sided exchanges between the pair, and as well as supporting characters such as Roxy (Liz White) form fragile relationships that develop as the film progresses: as Bill begins to take responsibility for his actions and absence, the boys begin to warm to him, and realise how precious a family bond is.

Impressionable younger sibling Jimmy is the catalyst for the story that unfolds, as he becomes mixed up with low-life drug peddler Terry (Leo Gregory) and his band of cockney wide-boy wannabes. Neil Maskell plays a fitting role as tubby hard man Dicky, whereas Misfits actor Iwan Rheon offers an often comical performance as street-dealing, ethnically-confused, Pill.

The pacing satisfies and gradually builds with steady momentum culminating in a tensely climactic scene that could go either way. The fine line between success and failure -- from Bill's parental stance at least -- is as taut as it could be: it's hard not to commit your support in his plight to turn his life around and make up for lost time with his sons, but old habits tend to die hard.

The direction is clean and articulate; void of over-ambitiousness (bar one beautifully eloquent paper aeroplane scene), where a less-is-more approach has far greater impact in the context of the film. Lengthy tracking shots from high-rise corridors leading into their flat and through the individual rooms add a sense of voyeurism, which juxtaposes nicely with the more snappier, heated scenes.

Strong performances from Poulter and Creed-Miles really drive a film that, on the exterior, is a brutally serious drama with the underlying comparative themes of a western. It also provides several playful and amusing moments that maintain a comedic undertone throughout.

VERDICT: Wild Bill's poignant conclusion is uplifting as well as inspiring. Add this to the well chosen cast and excellent script, then what we're left with is a powerful, hard-hitting experience that'll evoke a mixture of feelings -- mainly a satisfying fulfilment with warm sentiment.