Guy Myhill's Norfolk-set debut is a coming-of-ager with quiet power
In rural Norfolk, 16-year-old Goob (Liam Walpole) is stuck in a troubled home over which his mother’s womanising boyfriend Gene (Sean Harris) rides roughshod and unchecked. Only when Goob is exposed to free-spirited outsiders Elliot (Oliver Kennedy) and Eva (Marama Corlett) does he find the courage to seize control of his life.
Packed with raw talent on both sides of the camera, Guy Myhill’s debut as writer-director is a visceral and moving coming-of-age story. Thematically it is reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood but, whereas that film revelled in the languorous meanderings of childhood and adolescence, Myhill instead deals with the shock of enforced adulthood. Everything points to the necessity of growing up fast, from Adam Biskupski’s quick-cut editing – there’s nothing of substance on which to linger – to Simon Tindall’s evocative cinematography; the flat expanses of Norfolk run lifelessly to the horizon, offering nothing but the status quo.
At the centre of it all, lanky newcomer Walpole gives a remarkable, sympathetic performance as a boy on the cusp of manhood, struggling with the pressures of a small-town environment and a half-formed desire for something more. Given little dialogue, his body physically sags under the weight of a responsibility he is not quite mature enough to bear; after all, this is a boy who craves the singular attention of his mother Janet (Sienna Guillory) as much as he lusts after the young women who surround him.
The rest of the cast is also impressive, particularly Harris, who embodies the swaggering Gene like a coiled spring, and Guillory, heartbreaking as a woman unable to free herself from the trap of emotional abuse. It must be said that while none of the female characters fare particularly well, their fates dictated by the whims of men, this is indicative of the film’s insular setting rather than any narrative failing. Ultimately, however, this is Goob’s journey, and he is likely to surprise you with his quiet power.
Selected release from Fri 29 May.