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Midlands Feature Review - Frettin

By midlandsmovies, Dec 2 2016 05:05PM

Frettin’ (2016)

Directed by Lee Price

Beginning with well composed shots of rural Midlands combined alongside a rustic acoustic soundtrack, Frettin’ is the new feature from regional filmmaker Lee Price.

Price tells the tale of a man (Jake, played well by the quirky Richard Shields) who rejects the apparent riches of urban society for something more fulfilling as a busker, living a care-free life of creativity and freedom. Conversely, trapped in his money making world of jingles and sales pitches, advertising executive Tim (a first-rate dour performance by Craig Spencer) hits rock bottom and an unlikely friendship emerges between them.

With comedy mixed with pathos, Price uses clever edits to highlight their contrary standards of living with Tim’s stuffy corporate briefcase paralleling Jake’s guitar case – both of which encompass their lives at that point.

After discouraging Tim from an apparent suicide the two bond over food (“How will sir take his beans?”), accommodation (a small two-berth tent) and the great wilderness outside. Jake’s day-to-day free existence highlights the madness of the working world, whilst Tim’s coherent and rational persona highlighting the folly of Jake’s.

The film takes you on a journey through the countryside as Jake and Tim develop a believable father-son relationship, with Jake being equal part philosopher and (drunk) poet and Tim playing the straight role, asking questions as to why and how they’ve ended up in this predicament.

With room for improvement on some of the night-time shots which seem a little under-lit and therefore difficult to follow, the rest of the film beautifully captures the corn fields, brooks and hedgerows of the Warwickshire countryside. As they venture back to town centres, the camera work becomes less exciting but reflects the humdrum anonymous lives of those in the bustling high streets and pubs.

A question to ask is whether there is enough drama here in their travels to justify a 2-hour runtime? This reviewer thinks not quite. The protagonists are almost solely the only characters you follow and it’s a bit arduous to sit through a barrage of head-to-head dialogue scenes. I also wonder if the music was written for the film or the film around pre-existing tracks. I could be wrong but possibly the latter at sometimes as the narrative structure was a little forced.

The film had me questioning some of the morals of the two men also. What is presented as cheeky travel banter can sometime come across as cruel as they steal, lie and expect things of life I felt they failed to deserve. This portrayed romanticism clashing with the realist in me. However, later on, some melancholic despair and violence demonstrated a few sad realities as their old and new lives collided and provided heightened drama at the film’s conclusion which re-engaged me to their plight.

That said, these are brief and not too off-putting and the acting is very natural, especially Richard Shields as Jake who holds the film together with a likeable performance and also a fantastic and naturalistic cameo from Catherina Nellany as an eccentric bag lady they pick up in the third act. The humorous songs (a football ditty, “Balls, balls, balls, They’re in it for the balls”) were jaunty and cheerful and had a dash of dreamy wish fulfilment thrown in too which was enjoyable. Although avoid if you don’t like acoustic music as the film is filled to the brim with it.

With funny moments, from an ‘audition’ in a shop shower showroom to the young girl’s pink tent they end up sharing, to darker scenes of regret and painful pasts, the film moves smoothly between these differing tones without being jarring.

Frettin’ is therefore a film which wears its world-warming heart on its sleeve with a fond devotion for all things pastoral and trouble-free. Although a shorter running length would help convey its simple tale of straightforwardness better, Frettin is still a great example of a film with a strong central idea. It’s then delivered with clear-cut direction and is both effortless and easy to watch. An unpretentious pleasure.


Midlands Movies Mike

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