Daring to go up against the might of Potter this weekend, this low-budget Britflick offers an alternative choice who want their filmmaking a bit less blockbuster.
Aidan Gillen is an actor I have a bit of a troubled experience with so far. I’ve not watched The Wire as of yet so I don’t have any experience of what seems to be his most famous role, but I have quite liked him in the first season of Game of Thrones. On the big screen, I thought he brought a weird energy to the bad guy role in 12 Rounds but then completely fell on his face in this summer’s Blitz, constantly seeming as if he was “acting” and desperate to inject some quirk into a role that didn’t really call for it. After these fairly high-profile roles, he now stars in this low-budget, seemingly shot on HD video Britflick, reuniting with writer/director Jamie Thraves after working together on 2000′s The Low Down. I have little experience of Thraves, but looking on IMDB I see he directed one of the best music videos I’ve ever seen for Radiohead’s Just, which should make this film worth a look for that alone.
Tom (Tom Fisher) seems to be a happily married man with a young child but there seems to be some sort of problem lurking within him as he travels from Birmingham to London, gets rid of all his bank cards and starts sleeping rough. After getting into an accident, he takes himself to hospital where he meets Aidan (Aidan Gillen) a mentally challenged but incredibly cheerful man who soon latches onto Tom.
Many films have hooks on which to drag you in for its runtime and make no mistake, Treacle Jr certainly has that as the introduction to the film completely wrongfoots the audience by setting up with only visuals and music the unique tone this film is going to set, as Tom destroys pretty much everything in his life in the space of a 4-minute montage, a striking way to start a film for sure. This kind of tone carries on for the rest of the film as I was never entirely sure what would happen from scene to scene, nothing to do with choppy editing or confused plotting, just a woozy dreamy/nightmarish feel which caught me off-guard throughout.
Saying this though, the film is very much focused on what it is all about and that is the character of Aidan, a man who really seems to be aware of how “odd” he is but just doesn’t really care, instead going through life just wanting to make connections, and keep them. Aidan Gillen is a real highlight throughout, being absolutely unrecognisible from what I’d seen him in before, completely sinking himself into this character with a great deal of warmth though with sadness just creeping into his mannerisms. It’s also interesting that writer/director Thraves is also unafraid to make us laugh at some of the things Aidan comes up with, as well as laughing with him quite often too. With a decent sense of comic timing and editing, the film really is quite funny at times and helps to make Aidan feel all the more real, we aren’t supposed to just think “oh, what a sad state of affairs”, often Aidan is perfectly happy enough and this comes across.
This isn’t to say the film is all sunshine though as there is quite a bit of tough to watch material here, mainly revolving around “girlfriend” Linda’s treatment of Aidan, Riann Steele gamely playing up incredibly dark aspects of her character’s psyche and creating a character who is manipulative, does a lot of things to get what she wants but also feels real, not always going off at 100 miles a minute and sometimes hinting that she’s got a lot of hurt in her as well. She is the villian of the piece but she’s not a cardboard cut-out at all.
All this very much helps to make up for what is the weak link of the film and that is Tom. It’s not a fault of Tom Fisher’s performance, he’s quiet, has moments of scumminess but also heroism and generally does well with the role, but he is hurt by some weaker writing for his character. After such an attention grabbing opening, we never get all that much insight into his character and instead we turn from liking him to thinking he’s a bit of a dick. While there are hints in the narrative as to why he’s given everything up, we are never all that sure, and while the film itself is more focused on Aidan, it is a bit odd that we never quite get closure on his arc.
Treacle Jr is a bit of a lo-fi treat. With a fantastic lead performance, solid support and a strange atmosphere which larger budget films can never really replicate, it’s a damn fine alternative for anyone looking for something a bit different this coming weekend.