Can­did ap­proach to youth­ful ex­per­i­ments

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews -

vari­ably be­gins in stan­dard fash­ion, whether it be the re­ports of tele­vi­sion news­read­ers, dis­turbed res­i­dents of the area or even po­lice; then key lines are re­peated and grad­u­ally the di­a­logue is trans­formed into songs, mostly but not en­tirely per­formed by a cho­rus of char­ac­ters. Thus the line “Ev­ery­body’s very ner­vous” be­comes the start­ing point for a mu­si­cal in­ter­pre­ta­tion of street-level fear and para­noia.

Nor­ris’s cam­era picks out var­i­ous char­ac­ters for spe­cial at­ten­tion. Prom­i­nent among them is Julie (Olivia Col­man), a wife and mother who be­comes a de facto leader of the com­mu­nity, en­cour­ag­ing the clos­ing of ranks against the in­tru­sive media and sol­i­dar­ity in the face of the dan­ger posed by the killer in the pe­riod prior to his ar­rest. Yet while seek­ing clo­sure, Julie is not above ad­mit­ting that, se­cretly, her loathing of sex work­ers is such that she can un­der­stand the killer’s mo­tives.

Dodge (Paul Thorn­ley) is a loner and so, in the early days of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, a nat­u­ral sus­pect. Fo­cus also falls on a pair of mar­ried cou­ples, an el­derly man, and a cou­ple of young girls who spot a sus­pect on the bus (“You au­to­mat­i­cally think it could be him”), and all have some­thing to say, some com­ment to make, on the hor­ri­ble drama un­fold­ing in and around their street. And there’s also Mark (Tom Hardy, in a one-scene cameo), a taxi driver who ad­mits he’s made a study of se­rial killers, though — as he’s quick to point out — that doesn’t make him one.

De­spite the hor­rific sub­ject and the con­vinc­ing, al­beit stylised, de­pic­tion of the way or­di­nary peo­ple re­act in this kind of cri­sis, the film is im­bued with black hu­mour. “At least no­body stole our fes­tive wreath this year,” re­marks one char­ac­ter as Christ­mas ap­proaches and the area is filled with po­lice. There’s some mor­dant satire at the ex­pense of “or­di­nary” men and women who get a thrill out of be­ing in prox­im­ity to dra­matic events (when the never-seen killer is ar­rested, crowds gather to see the po­lice car take him away to the mantra: “Just wait­ing to get a glimpse, re­ally”). And a scene in which a TV re­porter makes sev­eral at­tempts to speak his lines while be­ing filmed in front of the house in which the killer lived is grimly funny.

With its com­bi­na­tion of real-life drama, songs and very Bri­tish hu­mour, Lon­don Road is noth­ing if not au­da­cious. Im­pec­ca­bly acted by the ensem­ble cast, and vi­brantly pho­tographed (by Danny Co­hen) and chore­ographed (by Javier de Fru­tos), it easily tran­scends the chal­lenges in­her­ent in the very con­cept. Nor­ris proves again that he’s an acute ob­server of the av­er­age Brit.

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