NEDs - Blu-ray Review

'manages to undermine many expectations, most notably Mullan's mastery of humour'

NEDs is one of those film people are quick to label 'uncompromisingly gritty', mainly because it is. Any one of the constituent parts of NEDs core plot (social realism, growing up in rough-house Glasgow, abusive father, wayward brother, drugs, girls, booze) could comfortably see it receiving the cliché and wearing it as a badge with pride. Throw it all in together and you can hardly avoid it.

Try to avoid it, especially in a dark alley, and you're likely to get stabbed or, in the case of one scene, shot with a crossbow.

The problem with throwing every semblance of a troubled youth at the screen, true that they may be to the experiences or research of writer/director Peter Mullan, is that many of the parts have trouble sticking. Protagonist John McGill (Conor McCarron), for example, has a troubling (and certainly troubled) relationship with his Father (Mullan himself), whilst his Mother battles on in the background. Neither of these elements is developed properly, instead left as lingering glances or the type of threat that encourages silence every time McGill senior enters a room. In a way, the story elements that come and go like this are effective but equally they're woefully under-developed and Mullan's story may have read more coherently with the focus being pushed on to just a few of his plot arcs.

Whilst the film is a veritable cliché of social realism-esque tropes, it also manages to undermine many expectations, most notably Mullan's mastery of humour. In a film with more violence than your average War Drama (and a fair amount of difficult-to-watch actions besides) the levity these moments bring is welcome and well-crafted. Watch in particular for the scene where a group of kids are forced to list their various ailments like names on a register ('glass eye? Hole-in-the-heart?') or the unforgettable 'don't be late again' segment.

Mullan's film then is a tale of both the expected and the unexpected. There is the hint here that Mullan, as director, can bring a fresh eye and a sharp tongue to British social realism in the 21st Century but there's also the hint that he needs to reign in his storytelling, basking in the glow of his finer moments rather than fleshing everything out with filler.

Look further...

'the film carefully balances over a knife edge to it's powerful and yet still ambiguous climax' - The Afrofilmviewer

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