True North

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner13/09/2007

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Watchable, low budget British drama with strong performances from Compston and Mullan.

What's it all about?
Martin Compston plays Sean, the ship's mate and the son of the Skipper (Gary Lewis) aboard The Providence, a mortgaged to the hilt Scottish fishing trawler. With the Skipper deep in denial about the ship's financial problems, Sean takes it upon himself to do a spot of smuggling, only instead of the black market cigarettes he's expecting, he's offered a group of Chinese immigrants.

In desperation, Sean agrees to hide the immigrants, enlisting the help of his crewman, Riley (Peter Mullan) and insisting that they keep their Chinese stowaways a secret from his father. Meanwhile, a 12-year-old Chinese girl (Angel Li) slips away unnoticed below decks and begins stealing from the kitchen, which confuses the hell out of the ship's slow-witted cook (Steven Robertson).

The Good
Compston (for once downgrading his usually impenetrable Glasgow accent) makes a strong, believable lead and Mullan is superb as the wisecracking crewman who's suddenly forced to take something seriously for once. There's also strong support from Gary Lewis, interestingly cast against type as the depressed Skipper, although Steven Robertson rather overdoes the goggle-eyed idiot routine as the cook.

Keeping the majority of the action aboard the relatively small trawler lends the film an air of claustrophobic tension that works well. However, it seems odd that the film so readily abandons the Chinese characters after the impressive introductory sequence. Once they're in the hold, the camera stays up on deck with the crew, as if to hammer home they're no longer people, only cargo.

The Bad
With subject matter like this, there are no prizes for guessing that it doesn't end happily and the resulting air of miserablism hangs over the film like a fog. Also, it's a shame that Angel Li's character isn't explored a bit further.

Worth seeing?
This is a well made, well acted drama that's worth seeing, providing you don't mind a spot of misery.

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Content updated: 19/02/2020 20:43

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