It’s always refreshing to watch a low-budget, indie film every once in a while – where the story and the cinematics are as raw as you can get, and you’re not just watching a series of plot devices (admittedly, many mainstream films aren’t like that, though I seem to have watched too many action movies recently that appear to be competing for ‘Cinema’s Biggest Explosion’).
‘The Violators’ (Helen Walsh) is a film that’s as raw as you can get – set on a deprived estate in Birkenhead, it’s a gritty northern drama that follows a series of events involving two young girls that spirals downhill from the very beginning. Shelly (Lauren McQueen), just 15, looks after her older and younger brother, with their mother presumably dead and their abusive father locked away in jail. A prolific thief, Shelly does her best to provide for her family, but gets caught up with Mikey Finnegan (Stephen Lord), the local pawn-shop owner and manipulative groomer who quickly gains her dependence. She also develops a strange relationship with Rachel (Brogan Ellis), another young girl from the opposite side of life, whose past and present actions seem a bit of a mystery.
It’s obvious from the start that this isn’t going to be a particularly happy film, and as it goes on the plot gets more and more bleak. Shooting such a film can often lead to stereotypes and clichés, but Tobin Jones as cinematographer has created an unusually beautiful look at the run-down estate with gorgeous visuals and sublime pink and purple filters. The sound is also well thought-out – the soundtrack is haunting, but most of the time the film uses the natural ambience to build up atmosphere.
There’s a very good performance from all actors and actresses – you may recognise Lord from ‘Shameless’ and ‘Penny Dreadful’, but both McQueen and Ellis are fairly new to the acting scene. Despite this, they both perform very well, with McQueen perfecting the ‘child in an adults’ world’, and Ellis delivering an enigmatic and unreadable Rachel. Despite all of Shelly’s issues you really can’t help but feel for her, and so the film can feel quite distressing at some points (both subtle and graphic scenes are utilised, yet each technique is equally as disturbing to watch).
I would have liked some more character development throughout the film, as sometimes there was just a little bit too much mystery. We never really find out enough about the relationship between Rachel and Mikey, and Mikey as a character isn’t explored as much as he could have been. I think the plot would have done better as a mini-series – this would have given more time to develop the characters and their situations, whilst not stretching out the story too much. The slow pace was very effective in terms of mood and atmosphere, but I just didn’t feel particularly fulfilled by the end. I also felt that more thought should have been put into the ending – it appeared rushed and this took away from the otherwise gradual momentum of the story.
‘The Violators’ really had a lot of potential as a low-budget film, and the plot was certainly interesting to watch. There were parts that could have been improved by overall I was really impressed by the atmosphere it created, and I look forward to seeing more works by Walsh in the future.
I give it a 3/5.
The Violators at CeX
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