During the last couple of months, talk of a renaissance in British cinema has sounded rather hollow, in the light of recent filmed plays and pitiful comedies like Bring Me The Head Of Mavis Davis. But TwentyFourSeven, written and directed by 25-year-old Shane Meadows (whose previous credits include the funny short features Smalltime and Where's The Money, Ronnie?), is a Britflick worth championing.
The Midlander not only writes highly-amusing dialogue, but also creates utterly believable characters, and is able to extract completely convincing performances from an ensemble cast of newcomers and experienced pros. Much of TwentyFourSeven is laugh-out-loud funny, with comic highlights including anything that wideboy entrepreneur Ronnie (Frank Harper) says; a debate about the merits of various brands of fish fingers; and a father bemoaning the pathetically low cost of the Notts County football strip.
The director is generous towards all his creations, never descending into caricature. Indeed, there's a palpable sense of melancholy alongside the humour in TwentyFourSeven. Darcy himself is a deeply vulnerable individual behind the ebullient facade, who describes taking his elderly aunt ballroom dancing as a "quilt to hide my loneliness".
Meadows doesn't shy away from the pathos in the lives of the youngsters growing up in a society which regards them as flotsam. And Ashley Rowe's lyrical black-and-white cinematography heightens the sense of loss which invests the everyday with a poetic quality, best exemplified in the almost wordless sequence of an outward bound-style trip to Wales.
Meadows confirms his advance billing as one of Britain's brightest film-making talents. It's a simple story, superbly acted, and handsomely photographed in black-and-white. A genuinely funny, tender vision of working-class England.
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