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Feature Review -The Man Who Knows the Ropes

By midlandsmovies, Jul 27 2017 08:49AM



The Man Who Knows the Ropes (2017) LeftLion Films


This little 9-minute film comes from LeftLion in Nottingham who feature Stewart ‘Sir’ Coates, a local business owner who works making twine and rope. Stick with us here.


The gentle acoustic music compliments Stewart’s mild pace of life in his small business, W. Coates and Sons, who manufacture rope, twine and cord. Understandably, there has been a decline in such old-fashioned production but this documentary shows a man happy with his lot, and with a great deal of pride in his history.


Behind green door Number 10 we are introduced to Stewart who explains “Business has gone down...and it’s just me doing it now”. With no employees, the film contrasts this with the fact there were once 200 or so workers that helped the business in the past. Taking over the ‘ropes’ 55 years ago, Stewart explains how the company has passed from generation to generation and the sad reality is that he may be the last owner after 150 years of business.


The film is peaceful and respectful as Stewart shares his passion during interview segments as he explains how he enjoys solo work as he has “no one to fall out with”. However, in a tender moment Stewart recalls how he met his wife and how she in fact still works as an accountant – ensuring the company, for now, remains a truly family affair.


The talking heads are interspersed with shots of a trade slowly declining yet his simple workshop and black and white photos of flat cap workers from a bygone era is, again, a soothing reminder of his legacy. Stewart’s positivity shines through despite the challenging circumstances and the film is punctuated with moments of noise as the sound of machinery is portrayed as an example of the hands on nature of his craft. And hands on it is.


Yet from his small wooden lock-up Stewart doesn’t let his circumstances get him down and the film shows us a man who takes pleasure in the simple things of life. “Look at my new boiler”, he remarks to the filmmakers. And in a world of immediate and virtual social media, how refreshing this pace of life is.


There’s a touch of melancholic sadness in the film as Stewart’s positivity is juxtaposed with the inevitable reality that the business won’t be around for much longer given there is no family ties to practically continue with such an archaic trade.


However, the filmmakers leave on a note of optimism as Stewart is not blind to the upcoming truth but revels in his final days as he “slowly moves towards retirement”. The laughter of the interviewer during their conversations really brings home the personal nature of the documentary and there’s a compassionate truth to proceedings as Stewart notes that “nothing stays the same”.


With a final smiles and a jovial “goodbye” the documentary concludes and is a triumphant success, which although could be used as a short news-piece, transcends its “functional” construction to deliver a fitting portrait of a local legend. *Doffs cap*


Midlands Movies Mike

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