Smartly observed and cleverly constructed British comedy drama is something special
This low budget British comedy drama is something special. Smartly observed and cleverly constructed, it’s at once funny and tragic and lyrical, and the deadpan humour is perfectly pitched with nicely underplayed performances from the cast. It turns on the appearance of an oddball stranger who is taken into the home of an ordinary middle class suburban family where his presence – and eventually his death at their dinner table – precipitates the break-up of a household riddled with dysfunction.
Black Pond is a notable debut from newcomers Will Sharpe and Tom Kingsley, who wrote and directed the film together. But it will, inevitably, be regarded as more noteworthy for featuring the first professional appearance by two time BAFTA-winning star of The Thick of It Chris Langham since his arrest and brief incarceration on child pornography charges (Langham claimed to have accessed the proscribed images while researching a role). Langham’s role as the head of the Thompson family plays on his fall from grace five years ago by dint of the Thompsons, wife and two daughters plus friend (played by Sharpe), falling under suspicion of murder (thanks, in a roundabout way, to comedian Simon Amstell’s fraudulent therapist). However, the film is chiefly concerned with the variously dysfunctional relationships between the family members, which are neatly contrasted with the oddly functional but possibly mentally ill stranger as the events unspool in a series of flashbacks and mock-doc-style interviews with the Thompsons.
As a comic portrait of English domestic life it’s up there with Mike Leigh, although the humour, wicked and poker-faced, is a good deal tougher than Leigh’s and, in fact, has more in common with Langham’s television series People Like Us. Nevertheless, the great social realist comic filmmaker may well have, in Sharpe and Kingsley, a successor partnership. In any case, it’s a promising beginning for these boys, and possibly a new one for Langham.
Cameo, Edinburgh, Fri 25 Nov–Thu 1 Dec.