Thursday, June 21, 2007

GROW YOUR OWN - brave, bleak British comedy

GROW YOUR OWN is a brilliantly well-observed black comedy. Directed by Richard Laxton and shot by David Luther, it has the same bleak look as LIFE AND LYRICS and is unafraid to show the grimier aspects of contemporary British life. Writers Frank Cottrell Boyce (24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE, A COCK AND BULL STORY) and Carl Hunter have penned a subtle tragi-comic script about an issue that haunts contemporary Britain: immigration. Neatly, they set movie in an allotment - that most British of inventions. The locals initially object to the "invasion" of their land by asylum seekers from the Middle East, Africa and China. So, when a mobile phone company offers them five grand if they sacrifice a plot to a phone mast, they are only too happy to secretly ear-mark one of the immigrant's patches for the concrete rollers.

The writers use this issue to explore knee-jerk reactions to immigration and the difficulties faced by both sides as they get used to each other. There is more than a smattering of laugh-out loud humour, but this is always under-cut by the serious subject matter. To that end, it helps that the movie has an ensemble cast that has the range to play both comedy and serious drama, not least Omid Djalili, Eddie Marsan and Olivia Colman. Best of all, there aren't any Hollywood endings although my one criticism is that the film-makers can't resist an opportunity to stoke up the angst. This is especially evident in Benedict Wong's portrayal of a Chinese immigrant. By the end, the emotional manipulation starts to grate, and throws off the previously finely balanced black comedy. Nonetheless, this movie is definitely worth checking out.

GROW YOUR OWN is on release in the UK.

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