Innovative direction by Les Blair when constructing this too little known work, a collaboration with skilled players, includes the provision to the cast of only a mere outline, in lieu of a script, that ultimately expands into a 25 page scenario sans written dialogue. He motivates his actors to give dimension for the mere flinders furnished them, through pure improvisation that is grounded upon their own frames of reference. The outcome proves to be a nice job all around that ruffles some of the standards that have been adopted by cinema enthusiasts.
The storyline’s centre is focused upon a married Irish pair, émigrés into North London from Dublin, Gerry and Ellie McAllister (Stephen Rae/Sinead Cusack), and several crises that challenge the harmony of the couple’s middle-class urban existence, most of their troubles having a familiar quality for a viewer. Gerry is employed as a planning commissioner for a North London region town, while Ellie, “pre-menstrual” (in Blair’s words), works part-time in a book store and watches over the McAllister’s two sons. Gerry is intent upon utilizing local ordinances in order to sanction a caravan site as home for a group of Irish Travelers, while his increasingly frustrated wife dreams of completing a longstanding novel-in-progress , but finds that a great deal of her time is being taken by an inarticulate friend, Jess (Clare Higgins), who is apparently in the midst of a nervous collapse. This work has nary a dull passage, due essentially to the effective naturalistic technique exercised in its production. Twin brothers, Ray and Roy Nunn (both played by Phil Daniels) are carpenters hired by Ellie to refurbish the McAllister bathroom, and they, along with Howard Spink (Philip Jackson, in a neatly controlled turn), a confidence man who contracts them, each connects with all of the film’s other principal characters, and provide a good deal of the ironic humour that enlivens the piece, while giving it the consonance that normally comes from a conventionally scripted picture.
Rae and Cusack rehearsed their roles thoroughly and the film clearly benefits, as it is convincing in the details, with thwarted novelist Ellie’s shelved hopes matched by Gerry’s surreptitiously drawn alter ego, a cartoon hero he has labelled ‘Paddy Plan-It’, “trapped in a world not of his making”. The narrative does not reach its end in anything like to a customary sense, as this would have only lessened the effectiveness of the film’s nicely wrought character development. More than one viewing will probably be necessary for most in order to fully appreciate the rich texture of a film for which all dialogue is improvisational. Additionally, the process with which plot elements commingle is cleverly accomplished by an able supporting cast that clearly benefits from intensive rehearsal sessions shared with always top-tier Rea and Cusack. Notice must be made of pleasing performances of Daniels as both twins, Higgins as a bedevilled Jess and Saira Todd who is cast as an eagerly flirtatious co-worker of Gerry. This film is of fine quality on its own merits, and also scores as an inspired technical exercise. (by rsoonsa at imdb.com]
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