Feature Review - Beverley
By midlandsmovies, Mar 9 2015 08:22PM
Feature Review - Beverley (2015)
Directed & Written by Alex Thomas.
Urban Edge Films
“Look, I’ve got a half-caste doll”.
And with the above words so opens new Midlands short film Beverley, the latest project from director Alex Thomas which is set in 1980 around the city of Leicester. With the rumbling bass music and a simple black and white font straight from the Two Tone music genre, the film revels in the traditional Ska music revival from the early part of that decade. It also sets the background to a highly charged and emotional short movie concerning race-relations and family and friend relationships.
We open in the home of Beverley (played by Laya Lewis from E4’s Skins) who is a mixed-race girl living with her white mother (This Is England’s Vicky McClure) and black father (Winston Ellis) as she struggles to identify with the conflicting cultures she’s thrust into. With a group of loud skinheads antagonising the streets with their barrel-chested rendition of “Rule Britannia”, the family move from an impoverished neighbourhood into a new home amongst the coiffed flower beds of white suburbia.
As the curtains twitch, Beverley supports her older brother and younger sister but soon finds the opportunities are little different than the deprived area she grew up in. A familiar cast of skinheads hang around locally and amuse themselves with BB guns and racist language on nearby waste ground. However, as the obvious tensions rise, it is Beverley who uses her cunning to find a common ground in the escapism of drugs but more importantly, a shared love of Ska music. Overcoming thorny odds, her attentions begin to fall upon one of the gang members Wilson, played brilliantly by Kieran Hardcastle (another actor who found fame in the ensemble cast of This Is England).
And so the short certainly doesn’t shy away from difficult topics and themes. After finding her brother being chased by the gang she has since become aligned with, we see Laya Lewis’ great skill in showing Beverley’s bravado in the face of tough circumstances. From wry smiles to emotional outbursts, the actress pours her heart (and soul) into the role with a passionate performance.
Difficult decisions are thrust upon Beverley as the narrative plunges into a Two Tone gig at a local venue that quickly descends into a violent encounter led by Dean, one of the gang with ties to the National Front.
The film’s sense of time and place is second to none from Bev’s chopper bike to the poster of The Specials adorning her wall whilst the adherence to the real-life locations of Leicester – including The Shed and references to Highfields and Market Square – make the realism pop. The fantastic soundtrack combined with the exceptional costume design thrust the audience into the era and the story, although not the most complex, contains multiple levels of meaning, forcing the viewer to confront the tricky choices along with the characters.
Although the film does not shirk from the seriousness of the struggles the character’s face (from the “Paki” cat-calls to the chants of “No black in the Union Jack”) the film’s lingering memory is one of great positivity. This unique optimism continues as the differences (and defences) disappear – especially poignant in an almost throwaway scene where Bev’s young sister is shown gardening with her previously antagonistic neighbour. This is definitely a film of hope. And a film about finding common ground. Whilst respecting these differences, the film creates drama through the blurring of the conventional conflicts and treats us to a distinct perspective. This reflects the true conditions of the film’s inspiration – Beverley Thompson, who also produces – whose life events encouraged the filmmakers on their long journey to the screen.
In summary then, I felt that combined with the superb naturalist acting, the film is a shining example of the talent from the Midlands area with both disturbing and poignant scenes being played so well they are like a generous gift to the audience. Director Alex Thomas, who hopes to expand the film into a feature, leaves us on a cliff-hanger with certain roles reversed and audiences expectations turned inside out. The combination of a strong story twist but a lack of a neat conclusion was a positive decision to further help cement the film’s themes of ambiguity and blurred lines.
With its thoughtful and moving ending, Beverley is a huge triumph in local filmmaking with a story that shows nothing in life is simply black or white.
Midlands Movies Mike