Better Things (4 stars)

Better Things

(15) 93min

If you haven’t already caught this bleak but beautiful British drama about disaffected, drug-addled youth, now’s the time to clock it. The opening shot of trees swaying in a grey-blue autumnal landscape sets the tone for the sparse but lovingly observed story that follows. The next but one scene, which finds a teenager slumped in an armchair in the family living room with the works for the heroin fix that’s just killed her laid out on the coffee table, establishes the quietly shocking nature of the proceedings. And a few minutes later a third significant introductory scene, in which two of the dead girl’s male friends shoot up immediately after the funeral and which ends with the ironic title legend, telegraphs the chilling humour that occasionally surfaces in writer/director Duane Hopkins’ excellent feature debut.

Hopkins’ story about a bunch of spotty teenagers is grim, downbeat stuff that’s in no way similar to the jaunty party atmosphere portrayal of a similar milieu in TV’s Skins. But stripped of sentimentality and melodrama, it’s a far more powerful and much more realistic representation of blighted young lives. Furthermore, Hopkins’ decision to set the story in his hometown, the picaresque Cotswold community Chipping Camden, works as a wake-up call to those who assume disaffection and all that comes with it only affects youngsters in inner cities and elsewhere in other deprived communities.

Better Things

  • 4 stars
  • 2008
  • UK
  • 1h 33min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Duane Hopkins
  • Written by: Duane Hopkins
  • Cast: Liam McIlfatrick, Megan Palmer, Betty Bench, Frank Bench, Rachel McIntyre, Che Corr, Tara Ballard, Freddie Cunliffe, Patricia Loveland, Kurt Taylor, Michael Socha

The Dardennes brothers meet Mike Leigh in Brit writer/director Hopkins' excellent feature debut about drugs and doomed lives in the Cotswolds.

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