British director Paul Andrew Williams’s latest film, Cherry Tree Lane, will premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival this year where it has been nominated for the Michael Powell Award. In preparation for this, here’s a look back at first feature-length film London to Brighton which premiered at EIFF in 2006.
As a woman, with her eye swollen shut, wipes garish make up off a young girl in a graffitied station toilet before locking her in the cubicle while she searches for chips, we know, like them, that we are in for a rough ride. Kelly has been asked by her pimp (Derek) to procure a girl for a millionaire with condemnable tastes and Joanne, a homeless eleven year-old smoker and tough-talker appears suitably exploitable.
Williams’s elegant splitting and shifting of chronology lends an ideal balance of suspense and pace, encouraging the viewer to question the motivations of silent but brutal men and desperate women until the closing scenes. The violence of the film is effective for its restraint and blood is reserved only for the most reprehensible of characters.
Not without sympathy, Kelly’s initial actions are mitigated by her fiercely protective treatment of Joanne, she denies her nothing because spoiling her with cigarettes and food is all she can offer. Her body may be a commodity but she also uses it for charity as she knows there is only one way she will earn a train fare.
When Joanne names a teddy bear after her mother or is framed by the serene horizon behind Brighton Pier, the girl who sticks a cigarette behind her ear and demands the readies seems ridiculous but not inconsistent. Other characters speak far beyond their dialogue; Derek’s lackey is not a brawn-bound lover of carnage but someone as short on luck and opportunity as Kelly.
The millionaire’s son is inscrutable, his thick-lipped sneer and poise promises violence but he is defined by passivity. He watches his father bleed to death in the austere white walls of his bedroom, he talks harshly to an inconsolable Joanne but does not act until he has heard the full story, ensuring people dig their own graves.
London to Brighton is taut, chilling and draining. Beautifully executed it is a seamless thriller; gritty, unflinching and entirely believable but without an edge of humane black humour.