Friday 27 May 2011

NED'S BLU-RAY review

Out now on DVD and Blu-Ray is Peter Mullan's coming of age tale set in 1970's Glasgow. Watch the trailer and read my review, next...

John McGill (Conor McCarron) is an exceptionally bright boy, raised under less than ideal circumstances. An intelligent, ambitious lad, his future has already been decided for him based on the part of town he's from. Frustrated by the system, rather than pursuing his academic skills John is drawn to the local gang his older brother is a member of. Soon, John proves himself to be a tough and troubled young man, and when he becomes engaged in a turf war with another nearby gang, it may be too late to save him from a life of crime.

It's clear from the outset why so many people have made the comparison to Shane Meadows' This is England, but it'd be unfair to write NED'S off as a copycat drama. Both films may feature a scrappy, young adolescent finding a sense of purpose via membership of a street gang, but there's enough differences in their stories to make further comparisons unnecessary. Having said that, I can't escape the feeling that the distributors are hoping to sell this as 'This Is Scotland', so would probably welcome as many parallels as possible.

When occupying the director's chair, Peter Mullan has never shied away from dealing with some pretty hard hitting subjects. Orphans was about a family of brothers reuniting for their mother's funeral, and The Magdalene Sisters dealt with the plight of a group of young Irish women surviving in an asylum.  NED'S follows the difficult upbringing of John McGill, toughing it out on the streets of Glasgow and making some life threatening choices along the way. In the lead role Mullan opted to cast an unknown, choosing Glasgow native Conor McCarron. Carrying the entire story on his back, McCarron delivers a fantastically understated performance that makes the film as memorable as it is. He's a stocky, imposing lad, but clearly has a lot going on in his mind.

The main character (and his descent into thuggery) could be read in a couple of ways; either he's a tragic victim of his environment or he was always a troubled mind in need of an outlet. John may feel sorrow over some of the acts he commits, but that doesn't excuse the creative viciousness of them. Certainly not an easy film to watch at times, as well as the expected brutality on screen it's just such a dour setting, never shying away from making its landscape seem like one of the harshest places to live on Earth. It verges on being too miserable to bear, and I'd suspect the tourism board won't be too happy.

The transformation of this polite schoolboy into a knife-handed maniac is handled subtly and, most importantly, believably. As an examination of fractured masculinity it's impressive, thought provoking stuff that doesn't arrive at an easy conclusion. Here's hoping Peter Mullan doesn't take as long between directorial projects next time.


Blu-Ray extras include deleted scenes and a lengthy interview with director Peter Mullan that fills in some of the history of his involvement with the project.

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