Wednesday 4 September 2013

Woodfalls (UK 2013: Dir David Campion)

Elsewhere on this site I reviewed Ben Simpson and David Campion's micro budget film Patrol Men. Campion has just finished a new film, Woodfalls, on which he has sole directing credit having parted ways with Simpson (although the ex-director still retains an original story credit). The film isn't officially released yet. but I got a look at it.

Woodfalls is the story of the Marrs, a travelling family comprising mother, son and daughter, who pitch their caravan on the outskirts of a generic English town, but have difficulty being accepted by its occupants. Billy Marr is nominally the head of the fatherless family, and is torn between his traveller roots - staunchly defended by his mother - and responsibilities, and a need to form friendships with young people of his own age, despite this often leading to confrontations. His sister Beccy is younger but just as innocent as her brother. Billy is gradually introduced to the townsfolk via Bradley, who as a black man shares some of the discrimination Billy faces, but this integration predictably causes tensions with Billy's mother, and arouses the attentions of Becca - who is as keen as her brother to meet other people - with disastrous consequences.

Woodfalls is a definite progression from the ambitious but cash strapped Patrol Men. In focussing its action on a tighter story it succeeds in rising above its slender budget rather than being exposed because of it. The acting is stronger than Campion's previous film too, which allows the viewer to be drawn in to the lives of the Marrs and the town occupants. At little over an hour in running time there's inevitably a compromise in just how much the characters can be developed, but I felt involved enough to care what happened to them.

The film is not without its problems. The character of Wozza, a drug dealer who is all Manc swagger and speed twitchiness, seems to have strayed in from a Shane Meadows film and jars against the more restrained acting of the other cast. I also had some difficulty with the plausibility of the film's nihilistic final scenes.

Matthew Ferdenzi, as Billy, gives a great understated performance as the child/man struggling to integrate into a way of life that he barely understands - Michelle Crane as Becca is even better, exuding a nascent sexuality while at the same time remaining believably teenage, particularly in the scenes where she sneaks out of the caravan to experience club life in the town. The supporting cast are for the most part equally credible, but the real star of the film is Louis Corallo's blissed out photography, which endows both the ubiquitous kebab shacks and chain pubs of the town centre, and the bucolic countryside surrounding it, with a hazy beauty. I was strongly reminded of the films of Andrea Arnold and Lynne Ramsay.

I hope more people get to see Woodfalls. It's a good drama, very slightly let down by an incongruous ending, but which for most of its running time is tense, involving and beautifully shot. It also has a great twitchy dubstep soundtrack which works really well against the visuals.

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