London to Brighton (2006)
By: Julian on September 22, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Siren Visual (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DTS 5.1, English DD 2.0. 82 minutes
The Movie
Director: Paul Andrew Williams
Starring: Starring Lorraine Stanley, Johnny Harris, Georgia Groome, Sam Spruell
Screenplay: Paul Andrew Williams
Country: UK
External Links
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If ever the Americans aren't putting out the kind of artiste quality the pseudo-arthouse crowd bays for, the Brits are always there to fall back on. Sometimes, the product of these efforts aren't quite as misguided and faux-grimy as that last sentence would suggest – case in point is Shane Meadows' superb 2004 film Dead Man's Shoes. And while Paul Andrew Williams' debut feature London to Brighton, at once a barrage of confronting themes, isn't as fake as some of its contemporaries, the trite scripting and 'hey, let's throw in this to mess with 'em!' mentality edges towards it pretty damn fast. 

The film opens as two women burst into a squalid London toilet at exactly 3.07 am. We find out that the duo are Kelly (Stanley), a very trailer-trash looking street girl who is sporting a nasty black eye, and Joanne (Groome), an eleven year old child prostitute whom Kelly has been charged with 'taking care of'. The early understanding of the events is that Kelly's pimp Derek sent Kelly and Joanne to the house of Duncan Allen, a rich old man with a penchant for young girls. Disaster strikes (it's undivulged what at this stage) and Kelly and Joanne are sent on the run and decide to hole up at a friends place in Brighton, while Stuart (Spruell), Allen's son, sends Derek to retrieve and kill the duo.

London to Brighton at once works as a thriller, mystery sort of a picture – who are these girls, and what have they done to be so frantically on the run? The latter is only answered entirely in the film's closing fifteen minutes and it's executed very tastefully – it's clear that Williams isn't a shock filmmaker and he's really trying at something very serious and very confronting here, without the exploitative frills.

The acting is also terrific. Georgia Groome plays Joanne brilliantly (she went on to do, and don't laugh, Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging this year), and Stanley is very good. Coldly twisted for the most part is Sam Spruell's Stuart – the scene at the beginning of the film where he's looking at what had happened to his father (we don't see the scene, only Stuart's face) is incredibly well done.

The British film industry has mastered plumbing society's seamy underbelly and exploring some thoroughly contemptible characters – one of my favourite movies, Paul McGuigan's Gangster Number One, did this absolutely consummately in 2000, and Dead Man's Shoes was also sensational. London to Brighton tries for something similar – it's low budget and is there to confront without being exploitative, with Williams reluctant to be explicit. He understands the importance and the intelligence of his audience as far as the general plot strand is concerned, which is to be commended.

That said, London to Brighton is fundamentally flawed in that it's almost entirely superfluous. We've seen this done before, and much better. Child prostitutes? Molestation? Big city misanthropy? I give you Christiane F. I give you Taxi Driver. Christ, even Running Scared managed to be more bone chilling than this. But worse than that, it's entirely superficial - Williams takes the tack of bumming you out with a super sordid aesthetic, and it works when you're not conscious of the almost-nauseating guilt trip 'like this or you're a callous bastard' attitude being impinged on us as viewer. It's to the point where the characters almost become caricatures, but the excellent acting of the key players manages to buoy this. The affirmation on the cover slick of the DVD, 'the best British film of the century' makes you wonder whether hyperbolic hysteria is really what London to Brighton is about.
Picture is presented in 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen and cinematography duties were taken by 'super DP' Christopher Ross. Ross does well depicting the seedy aesthetic Williams was obviously trying to achieve.
A good selection depending on what serves – all English tracks, one Dolby 2.0, Dolby 5.1 and DTS 5.1. No complaints here.
Extra Features
It's a great disc, I must say – and fans of the film would revel in the collection Siren has compiled. First off, there's a feature commentary with director Williams, Lorraine Stanley, Johnny Harris and Chris Ross. Also included is an interesting 24-minute Q&A with Williams held in London, a nine-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, one minute of outtakes and a three-minute audition tape for Georgia Groome. Nine deleted scenes, totaling nine minutes, are also included. The most interesting of these include an alternate ending and additional footage showing the prostitutes' incident with Duncan Allen. Williams did well not to include this footage in the final cut – less is more, and all that.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
London to Brighton was certainly impactful with something very important to say, but it just didn't hit the mark, although solid and often heart wrenching performances by Stanley and especially Groome gets the film above average. As far as the whole flee-of-the-innocent thing is concerned, we've seen it done far better, and with less of a self-conscious heavy hand. Williams grapples so desperately for credibility as an auteur that his film is left hollow, though I was impressed by aspects of it – powerhouse performances in particular.

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