Dexter Fletcher has created a film that’s both charming and true to life.
Another low-budget British film, another delve into the murky depths of social realism, as Dexter Fletcher – known for starring in the likes of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and TV’s Press Gang – delivers his directorial debut.
Much like Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur, on initial perusal Wild Bill oozes Britishness, dealing as it does with council estates, criminals and drug dealing. But Fletcher manages to take the clichés of the genre and effectively work them into something fresh.
Bill (Charlie Creed-Miles) is newly out of jail and soon discovers his children – 15-year-old Dean (Will Poulter) and 11-year-old Jimmy (Sammy Williams) – living alone after being abandoned by their mother. Dean is working on the site of the new Olympic stadium to support himself and his brother, and is reluctant to let their father back into their lives.
It’s only after the intervention of social services that they are forced to let him return. But while the threesome rediscover their relationship, Bill’s criminal past earns him the enmity of old acquaintances and things swiftly come to a head.
Even though the story seems as predictable as your average Hollywood sequel, there’s a wit and charm here that allows you to forgive some of the more obvious moments. The cast are engaging, with Creed-Miles managing to evoke rage, regret and happiness while remaining resolutely understated. And Poulter, who impressed in 2007’s Son of Rambow, also acquits himself wonderfully.
Fletcher makes good use of the council estate setting, eschewing the usual grim and grey skies for a hazy summer feel alongside the overwhelming presence of the Olympic site (which provides a slyly ironic comment on the ‘new’ London being created for the event, versus the reality of many of its inhabitants).
And while he avoids the excesses of former employer Guy Ritchie, there’s a punch and energy to the film that help create some moments of real tension and humour.
A relatively high- profile LFF premiere and a BIFA nomination. But still: more British social realism?
Performances and direction are engaging, even if you know exactly what’s going to happen next.
The story won’t win awards for originality but Fletcher has created a film that’s both charming and true to life.