DIR/WRI: Peter Mullan • PRO: Olivier Delbosc, Alain de la Mata, Marc Missonnier • DOP: Roman Osin • ED: Colin Monie • DES: Mark Leese • CAST: Linda Cuthbert, David McKay, Marianna Palka

Neds is director Peter Mullan’s first film since 2002’s critically acclaimed The Magdalene Sisters. As you would expect from Mullan, Neds is an unflinching account of the grim reality of childhood in the brutal Glasgow streets of the 1970s. The story follows young John McGill (newcomer Conor McCarron) as his promising school grades and sensitive nature get trampled in mud and he descends into the prevailing culture of gang violence. The story mirrors Mullan’s own upbringing and he draws heavily from his own experiences in his script. John’s mother is a nurse and father an alcoholic, as were Mullan’s own and he alarmingly states that the dialogue written for John’s abusive father (played by Mullan) was all lifted from his own childhood. That the story has its foundations directly in reality makes it all the more chilling.

The cast is largely composed of unknowns with Mullan himself the most recognisable. In spite of this the acting is consistently excellent and entirely convincing. The absence of familiar faces gives Glasgow’s imposing streets a thoroughly hostile facade and adds authenticity to the film’s gritty narrative.

Neds is similar in arrangement to Precious, The Kid and the excellent This is England. Where it contrasts with these is in Mullan’s refusal to explain John’s warped mentality or put it down to his environment. Elsewhere, John’s personality would be blamed on his parents or society but Neds features numerous examples of similarly raised youths who escape the feral streets of Glasgow, not to mention Mullan himself. While Neds begins normally enough, just as you begin to suspect where the film is headed it takes a dramatic aberration and events spiral dramatically out of control. All expectations go out the window as Mullan scoffs at the usual redemptive juncture and shapes proceedings in a highly unusual way.

Neds is a dangerous account of childhood amidst a culture of violence. Mullan effectively depicts the story of a smart kid that becomes swept away in the local scene of gang warfare and sinks below the mere scum to the unknown abyss below.

Peter White

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)

Neds is released 21st Jan 2011

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