DIR: Ryan Andrews • WRI: Ryan Andrews, Riyad Barmania • PRO: Jonathan Sothcott, Michael Wiggs • DOP: Tobia Sempi • ED: Peter Hollywood • DES: Tim Dickel • Cast: Jaime Winstone, Rupert Evans, Steven Mackintosh, Aneurin Barnard, Ray Winstone
From 1979’s Scum to 2011’s Hugo, via gems like Sexy Beast, Nil By
Mouth and The Proposition, British actor Ray Winstone has had a most
extraordinary career. During his 30+ years in the business, he has
worked with directors as diverse as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg,
Robert Zemeckis, John Hillcoat and Jonathan Glazer.
He one of the most reliable performers currently working in British
cinema, and it seems the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as his
daughter Jaime is (along with the likes of Juno Temple and Imogen
Poots) one of the brightest young actresses to emerge in recent years
across the water.
Having made her debut in Saul Dibb’s Bullet Boy back in 2004, she has
gone on to receive acclaim for her roles in Kidulthood, Donkey Punch
and, more recently, Made In Dagenham. She was also seen earlier on
this year in Dexter Fletcher’s directorial debut, Wild Bill, which
proved to be another fine showcase for her obvious talent.
Less successful in that regard, however, is Elfie Hopkins, the feature
film debut of Ryan Andrews. The younger Winstone stars as the titular
Elfie, a 22-year-old slacker living in a sleepy village, who has
aspirations of becoming a private detective.
Along with her lovelorn best friend, Dylan (Aneurin Barnard, a dead
ringer for Aaron Johnson in Kick Ass), she likes to investigate the
people of the village for her own amusement and self-fulfillment, much
to annoyance of the villagers, as well as her father and step-mother.
However, when a seemingly perfect family, The Gammons, come to live in
the area, their interest is instantly magnified. As the film
progresses, it becomes apparent that there is more to The Gammons
(especially Rupert Evans’ father and Gwyneth Keyworth’s daughter) than
meets the eye.
The final act reveal of what makes The Gammons so suspicious will not
be unveiled here, though it is a very interesting plot development as
it happens. Unfortunately, there are a couple of problems with the
film that make it less effective than it should be.
First of all, there is a moment in the opening half of the film that
seems to give the game away too easily, and is something that
observant viewers will be able to spot without too much effort.
Secondly, the opening 40 minutes of the film comes off as overly
quirky, and suggests a completely different scenario to the one that
transpires after the mid-way point.
It is not uncommon for films to change tact drastically once they
reach a certain stage in their development (Full Metal Jacket and From
Dusk Till Dawn are two obvious examples), but in order for it to work
in this way, you have to invest a certain amount of interest from the
outset, which something that Elfie Hopkins doesn’t manage, despite the
obvious intentions of everyone involved.
There are times when the quirks and foibles of the lead character can
be quite irritating (which is not the fault of Winstone, who does her
very best with the material she is given), and the plot meanders far
too much, instead of focusing on the task at hand.
Which is a real shame, as Andrews has assembled a decent cast, with
Evans and Keyworth, in particular, offering good support. There is
also a cameo from the elder Winstone as the local butcher, though his
peculiar accent and head gear does prove rather distracting.
In the end, it is by no means a truly awful piece of work, but the big
problem is that it was originally conceived as a short film, and has
clearly suffered from the expansion of the narrative that has led to
it cropping up on the big screen.
The one interesting side note to the film, however, is the fact that
Jaime Winstone has taken on a role that is a departure from her usual
bad girl characters, which is something that may well serve her well
in the future, even if her first step into new territory is something
of a misfire.
Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Elfie Hopkins is released on 20th April 2012