Neds (tbc)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner22/10/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 122 mins

Impressively directed and superbly written, this is a powerfully compelling coming-of-age story with a star-making central performance from young newcomer Conor McCarron.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Peter Mullan, Neds (which stands for Non-Educated Delinquents) is a “personal but not autobiographical” (according to Mullan) coming-of-age story set in 1970s Glasgow. John McGill (played by Gregg Forrest and then Conor McCarron) is an intelligent, studious teenager with an angry, alcoholic father (Mullan) and a ne'er-do-well older brother (Joe Szula) who's something of a local hardcase.

Expecting to shine at secondary school, John is horrified when the headmaster assumes he'll grow up to be like his brother and plonks him in the second stream class; he later suffers similar prejudice when he accidentally breaks something belonging to his middle class friend Julian (Martin Bell) and is banned from seeing him again. On the way home from being turned away from Julian's house, John is first threatened and then befriended by local gang the Young Car-Ds and he soon finds himself inexorably drawn to the tribalism and knife culture of the local estates.

The Good
Mullan gets terrific performances from his young cast, most of whom were drawn from locally held open auditions - newcomer Conor McCarron, in particular, delivers a star-making performance as John and his gradual transition from well behaved teen to hardcase to fully fledged delinquent to out-and-out nutter is as heartbreaking as it is terrifying. There's also strong support from Steven Robertson, Stephen McCole and Mullan regular Gary Lewis, each delivering blackly comic turns as John's teachers.

Thematically, the film has a lot in common with Mullan's previous film, The Magdelene Sisters, in that both films are about powerless young people who are failed by an uncaring system – the point is subtly made that John might have avoided the gangs if he'd received even an iota of encouragement from either his teachers, his parents or his peers.

The Great
The period detail is excellent without being over the top and the film has a terrific soundtrack that has moments of genius, such as a brutal gang fight being set to Irving Berlin's Cheek to Cheek, performed by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. Similarly, Mullan's assured direction recalls the work of Alan Clarke, while also including powerfully surreal moments such as the brilliant final scene.

Worth seeing?
Brilliantly directed and superbly acted, this is a compelling coming-of-age drama with a powerful and timely message. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 17/02/2020 10:19

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