March 19th: Mad man’s pants.

73. A Room for Romeo Brass (Shane Meadows, 1999)

Good British cinema is a little like good British food, hearty satisfying and rich. Shane Meadows makes really good British cinema. I’ve been incredibly slack in not watching more of his work. Romeo and Gavin are best mates who happen to live next to each other. Their lives are radically changed when they befriend the bizarre and eccentric Morell. He becomes their friend but his overriding desire is to go out with Romeo’s older sister, Ladine. It’s at this point that Romeo and Gavin become estranged as Morell shows a sinister and dark side to his personality, an obsessive and threatening side that imperils more than just their friendship. This is a superb slice of British film. Firstly, Paddy Considine’s performance is so incredibly magnetic and charismatic that I would definitely put it on a par with similar performances from Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver and Sean Penn in The Assassination of Richard Nixon. The sense of potential danger with Morrel only enhanced by the borderline comical accent and speech patterns. It is remarkably different from any other performance I’ve seen from Considine. This is almost to the detriment of the other solid performances from the cast – especially the child actors who convey their friendship in a believably juvenile way.

I want to quickly consider the violence in A Room for Romeo Brass. One of the students, Liz, who I am helping is doing Shane Meadows films for her coursework. She wants to consider the violence and the necessity of the violence in Meadows’ films. For me, the violence in this film is relatively minor. What Meadows does with a great deal of talent is maintain threat throughout his films. When Morell first issues his threat to Gavin (that he’ll get at his family if he ever embarrasses him again) the film takes on a very different tone. Every subsequent action of Morell is laden with potential violence, it creates a tension in the viewer that Meadows takes advantage of by repeatedly offering situations where Morell is alone with someone (Romeo or Ladine). He has constructed an inevitable episode of violence but he makes you wait, drawing out the tension for as long as possible before delivering the beating. It’s noticeable that Meadows places this violent threat in charismatic leading men who have an element of control over people. Combo in This is England and Sonny in Dead Mans Shoes. Is the violence necessary? Is there really that much violence at all? The films are built around threat and control, the violent acts themselves are more or less punctuation to the real messages of the film.

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