Pond Life (4 stars)

Pond Life

Charming slice of South Yorkshire life from director Bill Buckhurst

A wistful throwback to the early 90s, Pond Life plays like a love letter to the childhoods of the pre-digital era. Set in a mining village outside of Doncaster, the film's core characters are introduced through montage in moments of blissful serenity – be it teenagers making out in a field, or a kid watching the same VHS over and over – reflecting the tranquil atmosphere at the nearby decoy ponds. But, when a giant carp suddenly disturbs the calm, so too do the characters become more animated.

Twentysomething Trevor (Tom Varey) is determined to catch the legendary 'Nessie' before he leaves the village to find work; and so he spends one last day readying himself for a final fishing expedition, with an eclectic mix of adoring youngsters in tow.

Playwright Richard Cameron has adapted his own stage play from 1992, and there are elements of the script that show their age – such as the dated manifestations of one character's mental health breakdowns in the wake of trauma, the casual homophobic slurs that are thrown around, or the teenage lad whose crush on a girl comes across as alarmingly obsessive rather than sweet. But director Bill Buckhurst has nonetheless drawn out enchanting performances from his young cast, notably Esme Creed-Miles (now starring in Amazon Prime's Hanna), and the two boys who play pre-teens Dave and Shane (Ethan Wilkie and Gianlucca Galluci), whose summer holiday shenanigans on the slag heaps invite the most laughter.

Indeed, the environment feels delightfully alive thanks to cinematographer Nick Cooke's wide shots of the rabble's energetic antics on the run-down estate and in the surrounding countryside, while the gentle guitar strains of Richard Hawley's original score convincingly romanticise this slice of South Yorkshire life. And, if the slim plot relies on a number of predictable tropes, Buckhurst's assured evocation of time and place result in something delightful: a film it seems impossible to not be charmed by.

Selected release from Fri 26 Apr.

Pond Life

  • 4 stars
  • 2018
  • UK
  • 1h 40min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Bill Buckhurst
  • Cast: Esmé Creed-Miles, Tom Varey, Angus Imrie

Trevor (Varey) is a twentysomething living in a mining village outside Doncaster, who becomes obsessed with finding and catching a giant carp that’s living in a local pond. The slim plot relies on a number of predictable tropes, but as an evocation of tranquil early 90s South Yorkshire it’s assured and delightful.