Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Overlooked DVD of the month - ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE MIDLANDS

We all know that ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE MIDLANDS is neither as powerful nor as original as Shane Meadows' other movies - notably A ROOM FOR ROMEO BRASS, DEAD MAN'S SHOES and THIS IS ENGLAND. In his third feature, the Midlands-born director had a bigger budget, bigger stars and a less tight and focused script. Shirley Henderson plays a single mother called...well...Shirley. She has an uncertain accent, a plucky daughter, a sappy but kind-hearted boyfriend (Rhys Ifans) and a loser ex- (Robert Carlyle). A crisis is provoked when she refuses the sappy boyfriend's marriage proposal, prompting the ex to see if he still has a chance. Matters are complicated by the fact that Shirley is good friends with the ex's sister (Kathy Burke) and her flaky husband (Ricky Tomlinson.)

All the actors do a fine job, though the accents are pretty patchy. The Sergio Leone references stop at the title and the comic-strip sound-track. And there is less social commentary than we've come to expect from a Meadows film. Still, this film shouldn't be overlooked. It has a lot more heart than your average twee Brit rom-com and captures some of the messiness of real life. And you'll never see a better comic use of the reclining sofa.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE MIDLANDS played Cannes 2002 and is now available on DVD.

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