Chris Sullivan mixes with London’s commuters for a change as he checks out Peter Mullan’s Neds – and it appears it was worth the early alarm call...
It’s a tough call asking a chap to get up to watch a 9am press screening in London. One has to leave at 8am, brave the 2 degrees cold, fight off the commuter (that’s why I’m freelance to avoid such hell) and wait in line and hope that the screening isn’t over-subscribed.
But, today I did the deed in order to catch the great Peter Mullan’s rather splendid, Neds (which stands for ‘Non-Educated Delinquents) a largely personal film set on the streets of seventies Glasgow where the 50-year-old writer /director/actor grew up. The film follows teenager, John McGill, played over the years by Greg Forrest and Conor McCarron, who tries his best to keep in line, struggle amongst naughty gangs, battle through school and deal with its mostly disinterested teachers. Home isn’t that clever either. His mum is sullen and suppressed, his dad (amazingly rendered by Mullan) is drunk and depressed while his elder brother bunks off school and carries the rep as the local hard man.
A brutally realistic drama that reminds me of Ken Loach at his best – once I saw the poster with the teenage hoodlums in their long leather coats, stacked shoes, spread collared shirts, Doc Martens and Crombies, I had to go and see it. “I started making a film about knife culture and what brought it around,” informed Mullan outside the Gala screening of his film. “But by the time I finished the film it became more about the dark journey through adolescence and the darkness of childhood.”
“I play John McGill,” interjected star Conor McCarron. “He is basically looking for education, to go to Uni and better himself but, because his big brother was one he falls in with the Neds and gets himself into trouble.” After the screening it was off to that great Soho institution, The Phoenix Artists Club, for the after party. One of the west end’s last remaining original bars that, once the haunt of every thespian worth his salt (Olivier, O’ Toole, Burton etc) has not changed its interior, its toilets or its proprietor (the marvelously camp Maurice) in decades.
Not surprisingly the mainly Glaswegian cast gave London what for. “I’m amazed by the London Film Festival,” whispered the bearded Mullan who, to keep his options open, has just started a course in Thermal Insulation at a college in Glasgow. “It's got a lot more muscle. I don’t remember it being this glamorous.” I don’t think he was talking about the Phoenix.