London to Brighton
‘One year they wanted my ho to be a poster girl … for birth control.’
Jackson Brown, US comedian, pimp.
It’s just after 3am in a rundown London toilet and seasoned prostitute Joanne (Georgia Groome) is trying to console a tearful young girl called Kelly (Lorraine Stanley). How they came to be there, and how they are going to get themselves out of the hole they are now in, is a tale to behold. For their fates lie in the hands of pushers, pimps and kingpin London gangsters.
Paul Andrew Williams’ very impressive debut feature is powered by two film school commandments - ‘keep it minimal’ and ‘kill your darlings’. Like a death knell to the cheeky wink wink 90s wideboy flicks of Ritchie and co, Williams is all too clearly working to a very different template. This is vintage ‘wedge in the lockup’ or petty criminals on the lam stuff, think John Mackenzie’s The Long Good Friday or Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa, this is British cinema of the underworld working to a model exemplified by John Cassavettes in Gloria. Indeed, Williams and his editor Tom Hemmings have a fine feel for cadence and structure which allows them to start in the middle and work all ways at once.
London to Brighton is, however, a curiously joyless experience - there’s precious little badinage or give in the tone here, it’s as if William’s is scared to let go of the ‘hard boiled flick’ formulae that he and a million seminar-giving screenwriters have concocted, lest it float into the fire of parody. Like Eric Red’s Cohen and Tate or John Dahl’s Red Rock West (and a million straight to DVD releases), here’s a film written by adherence to golden rules, but as we all know, rules are there to be broken.
All that aside, Williams’ film deserves the praise it has garnered at film festivals; the performances are great and the film does grip you like a jealous pimp (even if you can see the ending coming a mile off). There is nothing here you will not have seen before, but you’ll be pushed to recall a more visceral or seamlessly executed recent British film.