There’s no catch

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

TRUE NORTH Di­rected by Steve Hud­son. Star­ring Peter Mul­lan, Martin Comp­ston, Gary Lewis, Steven Robert­son, An­gel Li Club, IFI, Dublin, 96 min

TRUE North could be mis­taken for a Ken Loach film, given its so­cially con­cerned themes and hard-edged treat­ment, and the pres­ence of its three prin­ci­pal ac­tors. Peter Mul­lan made his film de­but in Loach’s Riff Raff and later worked with him on My Name Is Joe. Martin Comp­ston was a school­boy when Loach gave him the lead in Sweet Six­teen. And Gary Lewis has been in three Loach movies, most re­cently Ae Fond Kiss.

In True North, Lewis plays the un­named owner of a Scot­tish fish­ing trawler. Faced with los­ing his boat to the bank, he has left fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity to his son Sean (Comp­ston). They are joined on­board by deck­hand and avid porn viewer Ri­ley (Mul­lan) and their slowwit­ted cook (Steven Robert­son).

When they ar­rive in Os­tend af­ter an­other poor catch, Sean ac­cepts a lu­cra­tive of­fer to smug­gle 20 Chi­nese im­mi­grants on the jour­ney home to Scot­land. Ri­ley will­ingly abets him, but Sean is too ashamed to tell his fa­ther about the hu­man cargo hid­den in the hold. In their de­ter­mi­na­tion to land enough fish to con­vince UK cus­toms, they take a de­tour to­wards Green­land and into the path of a storm that threat­ens the lives of all aboard the trawler, which is iron­i­cally named Prov­i­dence.

Most re­cently em­ployed as the di­rec­tor of the now-run­ning BBC cos­tume drama Cran­ford, for­mer ac­tor Steve Hud­son makes an aus­pi­cious fea­ture de­but as writer-di­rec­tor with True North. His screen­play was in­spired by the hor­rific fate of 58 il­le­gal Chi­nese im­mi­grants who suf­fo­cated inside a con­tainer truck on a sail­ing from Rot­ter­dam to Dover in 2000.

Pulling no punches, Hud­son tack­les the is­sues raised by the script, and their com­pli­cated moral­ity, with an ad­mirable di­rect­ness and tough­ness in a bleak pic­ture that vividly cap­tures the fear and des­per­a­tion of the im­mi­grants.

The drama gains in ur­gency from the per­for­mances. Comp­ston is par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive, while An­gel Li, who is from China and now lives in Co Wick­low, is ex­pres­sively af­fect­ing as the hun­gry 11-year-old im­mi­grant girl re­source­fully seek­ing out food on the trawler.

True North, which is an Ir­ish-Ger­man-UK co-pro­duc­tion, was shot (un­der the ti­tle Drag­net) off the east­ern and south­ern coasts of Ire­land.

North­ern ex­po­sure: Martin Comp­ston

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