Dir: Mark Gillis; Starring: Martin Herdman, Ian Hogg, Marlene Sidaway, Tracey Wilkinson, Josh Herdman, Mark Gillis. Cert 15, 85 mins
Mark Gillis’s debut feature is in the best tradition of British low-budget social realism. Many of its themes overlap with those of Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake – and it shares the anger and the humour found in Loach’s film.
Micky Mason (Martin Herdman) is a good man who has been dealt a very bad hand. Having been employed as a tool fitter for 20 years, he has lost his job and has had to take menial temp work. Micky can no longer afford to keep his father, who has dementia, in his care home (which has been bought out by private contractors) and so has brought the old man back to live with him in his tiny studio flat. He swaps the flat illegally for another one on the same estate – and that’s when his problems multiply yet further.
As Micky wrestles with so much adversity, you begin to wish that writer-director Gillis’s screenplay will give him a break. His son is a recovering drug addict. He keeps on getting points on his driving license, which makes it yet harder for him to get a job. New bills land on his doorstep. Now, it turns out that the previous tenant of the flat he has taken over was a petty gangster and drug dealer.
The film might sound grim – and at times it is – but Herdman’s Micky is an immensely likeable figure. He is the type of working class everyman, fighting to keep his dignity and sense of humour in the face of an uncaring world, that you could imagine Bob Hoskins playing a generation ago.
The production values here are relatively modest. Sink sometimes lurches into heavy-handed melodrama. Nonetheless, watching it, you can’t help but root for Micky. You become entirely caught up in his fight for survival. Most of the people he encounters share his basic decency. There are elderly neighbours forever making him cups of tea, caretakers trying to sort out his accommodation problems, allies at the job centre who tell him instantly whenever there is a vacancy he might be able to fill, and even roguish old school friends who’ve turned to crime but who look out for him at his most difficult moments. Writer-director Gillis rarely resorts to crude polemic but the film makes it very clear that the system is rotten to the core if a man like Micky can be discarded so easily.
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