The saving grace of this dreary film is the friendship between Romeo and Gavin.
The promotional materials for A Room for Romeo Brass bill it as a suburban comedy. I must have seen the wrong movie. Traveling to theaters accompanied by a poster of two schoolboys grinning with the pleasure of adolescent friendship, the film lives in that mood just long enough to introduce us to two kids who fit the description: Romeo (Andrew Shim), a big-hearted, bright kid, and Gavin (Ben Marshall), a good-humored boy with a serious limp.
The boys live as neighbors in row houses, go to school, and pass their free time in the fields around Nottingham, England. They live in the shadows of Gavin's impending back operation and Romeo's absent father, who returns just often enough to upset the household. During these rough visits, Romeo finds refuge with Gavin and his parents, Bill and Sandra Woolley, who regard him as part of the family. So far so good, but now writer/director Shane Meadows plays his real cards.
Meadows introduces Morell (Paddy Considine), a 25-year-old with no redeeming features other than his rescue of the two boys from the town bullies. Morell takes a shine to Romeo's older sister, Ladine (Vicky McClure), and begins asking her to go out with him. He tries to persuade her with tortured and humiliating logic. To her everlasting credit, Ladine knows a loser when she sees one.
Morell is not just a no-good guy. He's a twisted soul, and the merest of mortals would know instantly that he is a threat to women and children. This idle slacker gives Romeo refuge from his father, offers himself up as friend to the boys, and begins the awful process of insinuating himself into their lives. Director Meadows seems to find humor when the boys make Morell look the fool in the eyes of Ladine. A sick man being goaded is not fertile ground for comedy.
Romeo, looking for emotional and physical escape, leaves the Wooley family for Morell. His friendship with Gavin is shattered. All this happens early on, leaving the audience to endure the triangulated relationships among three families and their individual members.
The saving grace of this dreary film is the friendship between Romeo and Gavin. Director Meadows has a strong fix on the idleness and needs of schoolboy friendship, and he found two appealing young actors to play the roles. Andrew Shim, tubby and warm, and Ben Marshall, skinny and withdrawn, do indeed make us smile in the early scenes. We get to know them and to like them.
But the other characters are too thinly drawn to matter. So it is left to Paddy Considine as Morell to interpret his director's strange instructions. Trying to make his character part buddy, part suitor, and seeming unsure of whether Morell is funny or terrifying, poor Paddy Considine manages only to create a man twisted to his core. Without other strengths, that's no reason to see a movie.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 491
Studio : October Films
Rating : R
Running time : 1h30m
Copyright (c) Illusion
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