Wild Bill, 2011.
Directed by Dexter Fletcher.
Starring Charlie Creed-Miles, Will Poulter, Liz White, Sammy Williams, Leo Gregory, Jaime Winstone, Jason Flemyng, Andy Serkis and Olivia Williams.
Upon his release from prison, a violent ex-con attempts to build a new life for himself with his two sons, only to run into trouble with his former associates.
The London Film Festival is the perfect platform for British film makers to flaunt their talent to the watching world. According to a recent article in The Guardian, British cinema is on the rise (not something I particular agree with at the moment) so there is an apparent excitement surrounding new films set in the UK.
Wild Bill is set in the London borough of Newham during the period that the Olympic Games stadiums were being built. 15 year old Dean (Will Poulter) works on the building site illegally, but one of the foremen lets him help out to earn more money to support himself and his younger brother Jimmy (Sammy Williams), aged 11, who live parentless in a council flat block. Their mother left them in London and ran off to Spain some years ago but after being in prison for eight years their father, ‘Wild’ Bill, returns.
After first trying to move on from his kids and his past, Bill is blackmailed by Dean into staying for a few weeks for the purpose of a social worker inspection. After the inspection however, Bill tries to patch things up with his family and try to cut all ties with his previous gang associates… but of course that is easier said than done.
Essentially the film plays out like an overdrawn episode of EastEnders and depicts a life of poverty where drug dealing seems to be the only viable escape route. In the brochure for the festival, artistic director Sandra Hebron says these days films offer perfect escapism. This film is one of life that is precisely what cinema goers are trying to escape from, and only serves as a reminder of how bleak life can be these days. From previous primary research I have done for other projects, a lot of people (both British and foreign) said they thought of drugs and crime when I asked them about British cinema, both key features in this movie. But there are depths to this film that I only became aware of towards the end.
The script is in general not that bad, even though it features a shockingly embarrassingly behaving ‘youth’ who made me cringe every second he was on the screen. It is sprinkled with emotional dialogue, especially when Dean addresses his father’s absence (Bill: “I felt bad about missing you birthday”; Dean: “Which one?”). But there is a scene where Dean starts to have sex with a young girl and it is shot energetically and passionately with a raw soundtrack for backing. This to me felt very creepy – watching two young teenagers engage in a tryst like this was uncomfortable to watch!
But in spite of this and the other flaws I have mentioned, I found myself eager to find out the conclusion to the film, so it that respect I suppose it entertained me. It’s not going to break any box office records or stand out as a significant through British film but it might be one to watch if you have nothing to do for a couple of hours.
Jon Dudley is a freelance film and television journalist and his 17-minute short film Justification was shown at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.