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Review by Michael Edwards

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

FOOTBALL films have become a bit of a predictable affair. The Football Factory, Green Street and the like have all taken the same gritty slant on the subject, ultimately resolving that it is a futile attempt to express primeval manliness in a world that no longer values such traits. There’s fights, drinking, shouting and moments of quiet loneliness.

It’s therefore incredibly refreshing to see a film like Awaydays, which completely breaks the mould. Writer Kevin Sampson, who penned the novel on which the film is based, creates a world which doesn’t just shine a bright light into the brutal face of hooliganism from the perspective of those or whom it is so attractive.

Instead, this world is held up and compared to one of potential, one of ideas and hope.

Paul Carty (Nicky Bell) is a man with potential. He has a reasonable job, loving family and good education. But after the death of his mother he feels confined, trapped and angry.

He looks for release by desperately trying to get in with the local gang and, in doing so, he forges a strong bond with Elvis (Liam Boyle), a lad from the wrong side of the tracks.

Living alone on a council estate Elvis is a wheeler dealer who lives the life of football violence, but escapes through drugs and yearns for more.

Artily shot, the film tracks the highs and lows of their relationship both existentially and in its gritty realities. There are some stunning moments which venture well beyond normal cinematic convention for such films, and these really make it stand out. But they also feel forced at times.

The trouble is that in cramming in all of these ideas and artistic pretensions, the film lacks a realism much needed to understand why it is that Carty and Elvis act how they do.

There’s none of the visceral joys taken from the violence, nor heady pleasures in their more ponderous times, and never do we really get a grasp of who they are. This proves a real flaw in the construction of this ambitious film.

Equally damaging is the two-dimensional nature of the supporting characters. The other thugs are archetypes more at home in traditional football hooliganism films, and we are given nothing on Carty’s family whose traumas have been formative in leading him to the state he is in for the duration of the film.

To conclude in this way may seem slightly strange given the accompanying rating of Awaydays, but it seems necessary: this is a unique film that is a must-see for its original approach to its themes.

In some ways it has failed to reach the heady heights it guns for, but it is certainly worth watching it try to get there. And some audiences may be less critical of the hurdles over which it so unfortunately stumbles.

Certificate: 18
Running time: 105mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: September 28, 2009