This tale of a violent young offender being transferred (Starred Up) into adult prison wasn’t on my radar at all, and now easily makes my top 10 films of 2014. It’s been almost a week since I saw it and I’ve found myself thinking about it several times. It’s burrowed its way in and now my only question is how high will it go?
Jack O’Connell is staggeringly good as Eric Love; full of anger and attitude yet also vulnerable and misunderstood. He’s not a character I’d want to be anywhere near in real life yet under the circumstances he has a certain charm that resulted in me rooting for him. It’s a credit to both the script and O’Connell. He may have grown up in the system and be a tough guy but adult prison is far tougher. We see his cockiness both help and hinder him, whilst his time in a therapy group shows him a possible route out. You can see the cogs turning as he contends with what the world has made him and what he might want to be.
Similarly brilliant is Ben Mendelsohn as Eric’s Father Nev. Full of the same mistrust of authority and violent streak as his son, this misguided and protective guy is world’s away from John Daggett in The Dark Knight Rises (I didn’t believe they were the same guy until I YouTube’d it).
Everyone in this film feels like a real person, with their own reasons for being in prison and their own ways of dealing with it. Some are violent, some controlling, and others change their views to fit in and make the most of the situation.
Shot to show the suffocating feeling of the prison whilst still allowing the characters fill the screen, Starred Up is tautly directed and unflinching in it’s grim presentation. That’s not to say it’s all doom and gloom though, with some humorous lines of dialogue breaking up the tension. It’s quite dark/rude humour, but it’s there, it’s well written and it’s welcome.
To think I nearly missed out on it. You’d be mugging yourself off to not give it a watch. It’s violent and profane but absolutely worth it.