Starring: Lauren McQueen, Brogan Ellis, Stephen Lord, Derek Barr
Director: Helen Walsh
The English do grim well. France are generally second on the podium with Brazil in bronze, but no-one can touch the glee English film directors have in taking their actors to dizzying high rises of South London, North Manchester, Stoke or Hull. There is something ingrained in the English to revel in the difficulties of everyday life; the problems with money, cheap drugs, housing, the bastards in the social. The 60s architecture helps. Many clever words have been spoken over a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio in the dining rooms of leafy Berkshire suburbs about how perfectly a movie has captured the lives of people living in places they’ve only noticed due to the green bits on Zooplas house price heat map.
The film follows teenager Shelly (McQueen) as she scams and petty-thieves herself through life, attempting to look after her younger half-brother while dreamily poring over the Argos catalogue’s jewellery section. She plays the part perfectly, a totally believable and never over-the-top performance. She shares her flat, which to her annoyance regularly becomes a late night party venue, with her elder brother Andy (Barr) who has predictably come to hate the system which has left him skint and unemployed. Shelly soon meets up with upper middle class girl Rachel (Ellis) who awkwardly takes her under her wing and gives her expensive dresses and takes her to coffee shops. When Shelly meets Mikey (Lord), a pawn shop owner and loan shark, she slowly and warily becomes involved with him. Lord’s performance is excellent; his charming facade gently erodes as the violent, selfish bastard underneath starts to surface.
The Violators main problem is with the believability of the plot. Even though it is explained towards the end, the relationship between Shelly and Rachel never feels quite right or credible. The difference between their lives should feel morally contemptable, yet somehow falls flat. The movies best moments are when it’s concentrating on the accepted struggles of the penniless, not when the juxtaposition between the haves and have-nots are bared, giving an unsatisfying feeling of being emotionally cheated. A second much more stimulating narrative arc is one regarding Andy and Shelly’s horror when hearing about the imminent release of their abusive father from prison, yet this is frustratingly given too little time to really get under the skin.
The Violators is a well-acted, typically grim insight into young people’s opportunities living the forgotten classes of England. The storyline never feels quite believable though, and so eventually proves to be somewhat annoying. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable and occasionally fierce film with a sensible running time which asks increasingly relevant questions regarding modern day England.
6 / 10