Britain In Half-Light
Last year I wrote this about films like ‘Fish Tank’ and ‘The Selfish Giant’, and the cliches of British neo-realism.
‘Usually there are long-held shots in silent fields at half-light. Here the Midlands landscape is harsh and as alien as Mars, but the families are always the same – broken, illiterate, incontinent with children, angry and inarticulate, and now I’m finally asking myself; What does the director want me to feel? Guilt? Shame? Helpless sympathy? These are the same families who would kick me, a gay man, to death if they could.
This really is the last taboo; lack of compassion. It’s born from seeing endless state-of-the-nation neo-realist films. There’s the inevitable uplifting moment, but as events spiral to equally inevitable tragedy, the director strands viewers in a non-judgmental limbo when I crave some judgement, some closure, something that will make me feel angry, elated, furious – anything other than vaguely sad.’
Now comes ‘The Goob’, Guy Myhill’s socio-realist debut feature, another coming-of-age story set in the Norfolk fenlands. I’m sure it’s got some terrific performances and is beautifully made. But it’s interesting how this kind of melancholic half-light style of film-making has become a genre in itself. While similar subjects appear on TV with grim regularity, perhaps directors are looking for something with more poetry – but first they’ll have to ditch the cliches.