Glasgow Film Festival: Dexter Fletcher, Wild Bill and All in Good Time
Highlights including Trishna, The Monk and This Must Be The Place
Paul Gallagher shares some highlights of the festival so far and speaks to actor turned director Dexter Fletcher and the young stars of British-Asian feature All in Good Time.
Glasgow Film Festival is at its halfway point already, and I’ve only caught a small slice from the exploding smorgasbord that is this year’s programme (more than 200 films: your move, EIFF). But in that slice there’s been a few that are definitely worth mentioning – the completely uncategorisable This Must Be The Place, a bizarre comedy with Sean Penn in a performance that’s either total genius or completely deranged, but undoubtedly needs to be seen; The Monk, an excellent gothic mood piece that’s oppressive and scary and features an uncharacteristically low-key performance from Vincent Cassell; and although not in the same league as those, I also liked Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna, an interesting take on Tess of the D’urbervilles that looks absolutely beautiful. A festival experience wouldn’t be complete without a few stinkers too, and Café de Flore, an awfully misjudged film that, amongst its various crimes against cinema, features a gobsmackingly tasteless storyline about children with Downs’ syndrome, certainly fits the bill. Less offensive and more just completely stupid is the adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters; it may have worked as a book but it sure didn’t make for good cinema.
I’ve also had the opportunity to interview some of the filmmakers in town to accompany their movies, and a particularly fun one was Dexter Fletcher. Yes, the child actor turned one-time GamesMaster host turned cockney geezer character actor for hire has not only gone and written and directed a film, he’s gone and made a great one. It’s called Wild Bill, and while you’d be forgiven for expecting a certain kind of gangster knockabout comedy from Fletcher, this is something different. It is funny, but it has real depth and emotional impact too. It’s much better than many people will anticipate. I put it to Fletcher that it could be a challenge to convince cinemagoers who would usually steer clear of the Lock, Stock… London gangster sub-genre that Wild Bill really is worth their time. ‘Yes, a massive challenge’, he said, ‘I’m gonna come up against a preconception that says “I know what I’m gonna get”. And I mean Lock, Stock was a fairly career-defining film for me. So of course if you say one of the guys from that film has done a film set in the East End, and there’s some snappy dialogue, it’s a bit funny, there’s some gangsters in it – well of course, the boxes are all ticked! But to a certain degree that actually helped me get the initial interest of getting the film made. I’ll admit I was kind of canny, exploitative even, in thinking ‘what’s gonna get me my opportunity to direct? What’s gonna get me that meeting?’ And I’m just lucky that the producers I got to read it saw what the bigger picture was and realised that yes, it is ticking those boxes but really we’re looking at a very different kind of thing here, and they still allowed me to pursue that. If I’d just said “I want to do a family drama about a father and son”, they would have just said “yeeah, right!”’ The resulting film, which features two great performances from Fletcher’s close friend Charlie Creed-Miles and Son of Rambow’s Will Poulter, as an estranged father and son, comes highly recommended from me.
I also spoke to two young actors, Reece Ritchie and Amara Karan, the stars of another British comedy, All In Good Time. It’s a gentle farce in which they play a newly-married British-Asian couple who, via various improbable plot contrivances, are continually thwarted in attempts to consummate their marriage. It’s not the kind of film that will be busting blocks any time soon, but I thought it was interesting as it presents us with two young people who are uncommon in contemporary movies as they don’t know much about sex. Most movies are happy to portray young people as having seen and done everything, and I wondered if the scenario in this film struck the actors as particularly exceptional in terms of the scripts they usually read. Ritchie, giving the impression of a man attempting to talk about a subject without really talking about it, said: ‘It was refreshing to me, because not everyone… I think things are romanticised in the movies so much, about sex and love and being young, fast cars and cigarettes, you know, it’s all kind of heightened stuff. It’s not the reality of it – I’ve known grown-ups who don’t know the first thing about how to go about – what to do, what to say to the girl, how to get the girl to… you know’. Karan offered a rather more concise take: ‘It’s a beautiful innocent scenario that isn’t portrayed very much and actually does exist, and is a reality for many people, and it makes sense as well.’ Don’t get the idea that this film is some kind of serious social drama though; the scenario in question is mostly played for laughs, with a sweet innocence that, as they said, is very refreshing.
I was also curious to find out about another of Karan’s upcoming films, the Simon Pegg-starring A Fantastic Fear of Everything, chiefly because it’s written and directed by erstwhile Kula Shaker lead singer Crispian Mills: ‘It’s a psychological comedy!’ Karan declared with evident pride, when I asked for details. ‘[Crispian] writes beautifully, and he has made a very beautiful film. I’ve seen a cut of it - not the final one yet – and you should expect hand-made, hand-crafted beauty and dark humour. It’s about a writer who has a nervous breakdown and he basically has a fear of everything from neuroses he has to face up to, including his love life. And I’m his salvation!’ We’ll have to wait until June to see if Mills can cut it as a filmmaker, but if Dexter Fletcher can pleasantly surprise us, then who’s to say the man who once sang ‘Govinda Jaya Jaya’ can’t do the same?
Glasgow Film Festival continues until Sunday 26th February. Wild Bill is on selected release from Fri 23 Mar. All In Good Time will be released in May (date tbc).