Junkhearts - Review
Review by Lisa Giles-Keddie
TINGE Krishnan’s debut British feature was the toast of this year’s London Film Festival with newcomer Candese Reid winning Best British Newcomer for her portrayal of rough sleeper Lynette.
Junkhearts is a prime example of British independent filmmaking in grim motion, unsurprisingly falling into the gloomy, socio-political drama category that is so often prevalent at festival time.
Former soldier Frank (Eddie Marsan) spends his days reliving the horrors he witnessed in Northern Ireland, when not walking to and from the local off-licence near his east London estate to re-stock on booze and fags.
On one such visit, he comes across black teenager Lynette on the street outside, and although frosty at first, theirs is an unlikely companionship, an almost father-daughter relationship that grows as Frank tries to help Lynette gain the confidence to rebuild her life.
Unbeknown to him, her presence is less than honest and is about to make his haunted world worse than it already is.
Meanwhile, in more affluent surroundings, struggling businesswoman and single mother Christine (Romola Garai) turns to drugs to cope with all the pressures of bringing up a child alone.
While designed to once more unearth the ugliest of human nature and its self-destructive quality and the grimness of London’s kitchen sink estates, Junkhearts could be a reproduction of any urban sprawl’s social ills.
The two worlds of Frank and Christine seem totally unrelated, but there is one unifying theme of loneliness, an inner fear that transcends generations and class barriers.
The trouble is, much as Krishnan’s dark tale needs to portray Frank’s world spiralling out of control so that we witness rock bottom for the healing process to begin, any major impact the final scene might have is rendered quite unremarkable because it takes so long to connect the relationship dots.
It almost feels alien, like another film ending bolted on, or worse, as though a lot of this part’s development is still lying on the cutting-room floor.
Junkhearts strengths are not its originality but – like many kitchen sink dramas – its actors who are presented with a chance to explore all depths of the human soul within its social reality.
Marsan is naturally enthralling as tortured Frank, helped by Catherine Derry’s claustrophobic close-ups – the only question is one of continuity of Frank’s skin condition that seems to change from one scene to the next.
Reid’s Lynette seems effortless played and she does well to swing her emotions between bitterness and the hope that allows her to believably depict Lynette’s struggle with what she really wants out of life.
But it is her turn opposite the controlling and manipulative drug dealer Danny, brilliantly played by Tom Sturridge, that allows both actors the opportunity to showcase their impressive talents.
Although typical, Sturridge’s drug dealer is atypical in terms of appearance and maturity, making him imminently more menacing and unpredictable, as well as serving as a knife-twisting aid in rekindling Frank’s deepest, darkest military nightmares.
Garai is, as expected, a vision of captivating beauty but more haunted and terrified at everyday life than we are used to seeing her as self-assured Bel in The Hour. Alas, Garai is wasted in this film’s role, as her character snippets serve merely to make the flimsy end connection, rather than provide a vast difference.
Junkhearts is aptly named as the characters purge their tickers in their quest for redemption. Expect another bleak tale of inner-city hardship and self pity to begin with… this ultimately triggers the good ol’ Blighty survival switch and manages to allow traces of ironic humour to punch through.
Hence, for all of its flaws, Krishnan’s first feature is a commendable start.
Running time: 90mins
UK Release Date: November 4, 2011