Happy New Year, Colin Burstead
dir-scr Ben Wheatley
prd Andrew Starke
with Neil Maskell, Sam Riley, Hayley Squires, Sura Dohnke, Bill Paterson, Doon Mackichan, Charles Dance, Sinead Matthews, Asim Chaudhry, Peter Ferdinando, Joe Cole, Alexandra Maria Lara, Sarah Baxendale, Mark Monero, Richard Glover, Sudha Bhuchar, Vincent Ebrahim
release UK Oct.18 lff
18/UK BBC 1h35
Happy New Year, Colin Burstead
Family ties: Cole and Ferdinando

maskell riley squires
thessaloniki film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Happy New Year, Colin Burstead Beautifully observed and played, this often excruciating British drama mines a family reunion for maximum pain. But with each squirm-inducing scene, filmmaker Ben Wheatley and his gifted improvisational cast find the humanity in these flawed people and strained relationships. In other words, even if the film ultimately feels a bit slight, it's impossible to watch without seeing ourselves up there on-screen.

Colin (Maskell) organises a family get-together at a Dorset castle where his school friend Laney (Matthews) works. Everyone grumbles about the distance but they all come along. As a surprise for Mum (Mackichan), Colin's sister Gini (Squires) invites their disgraced brother David (Riley) and his German girlfriend (Lara). Everyone is shocked, especially David's exwife Paula (Baxendale). Meanwhile, Dad (Paterson) needs a loan to save the family home, cross-dressing Uncle Bertie (Dance) is planning a speech, and cousin Sham (Chaudhry) is trying to maintain his suave image even though he's moving back in with his parents.

There are continuous wrinkles revealed between these characters but the film's central focus is on the way David disrupts everything simply by his presence. In other words, he's not the only problem here: everyone has issues, which they place on him. Wheatley's camera circles around these people, cutting between conversations as they move through the rambling house and gardens in the run-up to midnight. Then as tempers fray, denouncements are made and skeletons come tumbling out of closets.

The actors are superb at continually adding telling details as this fateful evening unravels. It takes quite a while to work out who each person is and how they're connected, and some links remain a little sketchy. But that makes them a believable extended family. Maskell and Riley are terrific as duelling brothers who know how to get under each other's skin. Only Dance feels a bit cartoonish, but that's the point, and he plays the character with an unexpected earthiness.

Things come to a breaking point early on, so we kind of expect some sort of solution to come along later on. Thankfully the gyrations of the plot remain edgy and unpredictably realistic right to the bitter end. There may not be a lot to this film, but it's rather shocking in its ability to dig under the skin, gleefully pointing out how we love and hate our families at the same time. And why sometimes we want them all to be close. And sometimes we definitely need to get away.

cert 15 themes, language 9.Nov.18 tiff

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall