Once in a while a film comes along that takes you by surprise…
It could be because the film doesn’t have the huge media hype of a studio blockbuster and you know nothing about the movie, or it could simply be because you weren’t in a particularly forgiving mood as you sat down in the cinema. Either way, by the time the credits roll onto the screen, the film has challenged and inspired you, little by little working its magic, etching away the mid week blues as it gently warms the heart. Treacle Jr. the latest feature from director Jamie Thraves, is one such charming movie.
Tom, (Tom Fisher), is a despairing architect who has taken to the streets of south London, leaving behind a wife and son as he attempts to erase any signs of his previous life. The character’s reasons for becoming homeless are never fully explored, but the reasons soon become irrelevant as he strikes up an unlikely friendship with overly happy-go-lucky Aidan, (Aidan Gillen). Tom’s deadpan and depressive tones are immediately drowned-out by Aidan’s cheeky smiles, infuriating optimism and alarming naivety.
Aidan’s heavy lisp only adds to the madness of the whole scenario; at their first meeting, Aidan’s “You’re a six footer,” is bleakly interpreted by perplexed Tom as “you’re a sick fudda.” Propelled by the loss of a borrowed cat under the name of Treacle, they acquire a new kitten for the owner, only to be rejected in their attempted replacement. Stuck with a new cat, Treacle Jr, and physically abusive girlfriend, who is allergic to cats, Aidan invites Tom to move in with them. Although polar opposites, and despite Tom’s desperate attempts to escape, this unlikely friendship may be exactly what Tom needs to rediscover the meaning in his life.
Riann Steele plays Aidan’s violent girlfriend Linda, who seems more interested in a free buck than their sham of a relationship or Aidan’s well-being. Linda is a refreshing representation of a female character, well beyond the expectation that women aren’t ever perpetrators of domestic violence. Yet far from offering a solely male perspective, the film deals with this by drawing attention to the cyclical nature of violence, the abused becoming abuser. In this respect, the film is challenging and arresting, as much as it is full of humour and warmth. Treacle Jr. is a low budget feature shot entirely on location in South London. Writer and director Jamie Thraves funded the film by re-mortgaging his house, the risk of which must have placed him a step closer in reality to his character Tom.
With exceptional performances from Gillen, Fisher and Steele, this is a British drama to get excited about. If recent critics have suggested the film being removed from the lives of ordinary folk, then that, to me, is the wonder of film, a world in which anything becomes possible. It’s about time our gritty British dramas became a little more fantastical. The wonder of this film is the marriage between whimsical and gritty realism, the will to challenge and to entertain. Original and uplifting, this film will take you by surprise and warm your heart.
Treacle Jr. is out now