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Sunday, January 27, 2008

A ROOM FOR ROMEO BRASS (1999) - Shane Meadows

Over the last ten years, Shane Meadows has proven himself to be one of the finest writer-directors not just in England, but in the world. His films are stripped of gloss and glamour and retain the gritty realism that his stories call for. Since Twenty Four Seven, released in 1997, Meadows films have gotten steadily better with each release, but that’s not to say his earlier work is any weaker than the likes of Dead Man’s Shoes and last year’s This Is England. A Room For Romeo Brass, Meadow’s follow up to Twenty Four Seven retains the hallmarks of Meadows’ style and marks his first collaboration with Paddy Considine.

A Room For Romeo Brass follows the fortunes of two young friends, Gavin and Romeo played by Ben Marshall and Andrew Shim. Romeo is an outspoken kid, who’s father has walked out on him, his sister and mother. Himself and Gavin get into a fight with some older boys, but are rescued by Morell, a twenty five year old eccentric man. Morell starts to hang around with the boys, and takes a shine to Romeo’s older sister. But after she rejects his advances, Morell starts to show a dark, dangerous and obsessive side to his personality. A side that threatens now only Romeo, but his family, and his friendship with Gavin.

As with the other films that Meadows has done, the look and feel to A Room For Romeo Brass would make some think that it is a low budget, amateur piece. And while the first part of that statement is true, the later part is in no way true. Meadows’ script and characterisation are very tight. The dialogue is witty, and at times, the film is very suspenseful. Quite a part of that must be credited to Considine’s performance as Morell. At first, Morell comes across as harmless, and you feel quite fond of him. At moments, his naivety is endearing, and you can feel sorry for him. But then it becomes clear that this kind of naivety can be dangerous, as Morell loses control of his actions. Considine’s performance is as good, if not better than that of Richard in Dead Man’s Shoes. It’s difficult to chose between the two performances, as they’re incredibly different. Considine seems to completely change physically between the roles, and it’s this that shows just how good of an actor he is.

Also collaborating with Meadows for the first of many times is Andrew Shim as Romeo. His performance needs to be strong, playing against Considine, but it’s no problem for Shim. He captures Romeo’s cock-sure nature very well. It’s easy to see why Meadows continues to work with Shim, as he’s quite comfortable in the role. Meadows has the knack for drawing great performances from his actors, who quite often are not professionals, and while the rest of the cast aren’t as integral as Considine and Shim, each of the actors is completely at home in their roles.

While A Room For Romeo Brass might not exactly be the type of film you’d expect to fill the multiplex, none of Meadows’ films go for that kind of audience. There’s no glitz or glamour to them. They present quite a grim view of their characters’ environments, but despite this, each of the films are steeped in reality. For first timers, Considine and Shim, their performances are outstanding. The script for A Room For Romeo Brass is tight, funny and suspenseful. The direction is excellent, and not a moment is wasted. While A Room For Romeo Brass isn’t as good as Dead Man’s Shoes or the truly outstanding This Is England, it’s still a brilliant film, and definitely worth getting your hands on.


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