Monday, 12 October 2015

BFI Film Festival - Don't Grow Up


First day, second screening and it was at one of my favourite cinemas in London, The Ritzy in Brixton. It's actually quite easy to get to and from this place and I don't visit it enough so I was excited to see that a few of my film choices were at The Rizty.

The permeance for 'Don't Grow Up' is what got my attention. Part of the 'Cult' section of the programme in the festival, it is about a group of teenagers who live on a island of the coast of England. Everything changes when they wonder into town to find that all the adults have gone crazy and even started killing children. From what I understood, it was going to be a horror/drama/coming of age story. Its really about what it means to be an adult. Plus lots of violence and emotions running high.
 The BFI programme sums it up better than I could. "On an unnamed island, a group of teenage delinquents, in foster care/carehome wake up to find their youth facility eerily abandoned. Making the most of their unprecedented freedom, the kids drink and party, before venturing outside to a local store. Discovering the rest of the town similarly deserted, they suddenly find themselves under siege by a group of crazed adults, one of whom being their absent supervisor. Fleeing for their safety, it becomes clear that a mysterious epidemic has transformed all the grown-ups on the island into deranged killers and now the group must find a way to escape with their lives."

Directed by French director, Thierry Poiraud and co-written with French screenwriter Marie Garel, the film was shot in the Canary Islands and had an almost unknown cast of young British actors and one Spanish actor. It's a strange mix that didn't quite gell together. The fact that the location is unnamed had me trying to desparately guess where the hell the place was. The terrain changed so much. In the Q&A someone asked why Poiraud had set the story in England. He pointed out that he had always pictured the story in England. In France there aren't any islands like this, they don't places like in the film. I think he wanted it to have that British feel to it. With all the actors, it did feel that way, but there are parts in the film where the terrain looks like Spain. Unfortunately. I wondered why he didn't film somewhere in England, we do have plenty islands to pick from.

The film, overall was good but the fact that the script was originally in French did show. I wasn't sure if it was the actors or the script but what was consistantly pleasing to look at were the shots, there were some particular beautiful views on this 'island' and there were also some tender scenes that were filmed really well. Another element abou the film that I enjoyed was that the cast were unknown (apart from a Welsh actor who seems to pop up in everything). This was refreshing, as it isn't usually the whole cast who is unknown or relatively unknown. The characters all had their part to play, a bit like a predictable horror version of the Breakfast Club with teenagers in care. The theme of the film, growing up and what does it mean to be an adult is questioned but not always answered.  This is no spoiler with these types of genre films, but when the last two survivors of the group are left, the film looses traction, it takes a break, a much needed break from the chaos and reflects on the addult theme. In the Q&A someone asked about the violence as, yes there are actual children running around with guns, scared of the grown ups murdering everyone, but the director and the actors answered very casually about this. I also wasn't deterred by the violence, apart from one scene that was very bloody, violence is a part of growing up for some people and I think that was coming across. Survival instincts kick in. The tender moments aswell were needed to balance things out but the last few frames made me sigh as I was hoping the story wouldn't go the normal way, self sacrifice.
I saw this film with my friend, which I'm so glad I did. When we were discussing the film and the slightly odd Q & A afterwards, we had the same reaction. It reminded me of a film I saw last years at the festival that didn't get a UK release or at least I never saw it. That film was good but there was something that wasn't quite finished about it. I had the same feeling with 'Don't Grow Up', it didn't feel polished. It felt like the start of something that could be bigger. In fact Poiraud, mentioned in the Q&A after being asking about a sequel, he laughed and said no but he and Garel are working on a possible TV series. That, seemed to make more sense. But I had hoped he would rewind the clock and use the same characters because I think more time to develop, they would work in serial.

I suppose for now, we watch this space for a TV series.

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