The tough lives of three Irish youngsters in London are rigorously and painfully exposed in the vibrant urban drama "O Mary This London," a wildly confrontational and emotionally resonant tale underscored by humor as well as despair. Exquisitely written, directed and acted pic exhibits the same rough sensibility and energetic style that mark the films of Stephen Frears and Ken Loach. This rude and vivid film establishes Suri Krishnamma as a gifted director to watch and should be embraced by fans of new British cinema.

The tough lives of three Irish youngsters in London are rigorously and painfully exposed in the vibrant urban drama “O Mary This London,” a wildly confrontational and emotionally resonant tale underscored by humor as well as despair. Exquisitely written, directed and acted pic exhibits the same rough sensibility and energetic style that mark the films of Stephen Frears and Ken Loach. This rude and vivid film establishes Suri Krishnamma as a gifted director to watch and should be embraced by fans of new British cinema.

“O Mary This London” joins a recent slate of British films in its ultra-realistic portrait of London as a multicultural, dangerous metropolis, peopled with eccentric and volatile citizens whose anger and frustration often result in catastrophes and tragedies. Pic speaks not in the dignified tone of the Merchant Ivory tradition but in the biting voice of the pubs, streets, immigrants and beggars — in short, authentic working-class denizens.

Tale revolves around an offbeat trio of friends, Mickey, Mary and Bimbo, who arrive in London on a ferry from Dublin, expecting to improve on their dreary, oppressive lot at home. Mary (Oba Seagrave) is depressed over her unwanted pregnancy, presumably a result of her affair with Bimbo (Dylan Tighe), though identity of baby’s father becomes one of the film’s surprises and a catalyst for personality conflicts.

Gifted scripter Shane Connaughton constructs three fascinating portraits of people who live close to their appetites — and close to the edge. In his compelling screenplay, the characters always confront each other openly and abrasively in a network of relationships that is much more complex than it initially seems.

Underlying the notion that London is a ruthless city to outsiders who don’t belong, writer’s strategy is to expose the trio to different experiences that first separate but later reunite them. Structured as a road pic about the cruel struggle to survive, story shows how the youngsters learn some tough lessons about life — and about themselves. The intense challenges they face over the course of a few days are sufficient for a lifetime for members of the middle or upper class. But the film is anything but a luck-of-the-Irish saga; in fact, its shockingly tragic ending is well-earned.

A boldly intuitive director, Krishnamma’s particular talent seems to lie in creating worlds that appear lunatic but are entirely plausible. A stylishly bleak urban environment is created by Sean Van Hales’ vibrant lensing of Elephant and Castle, Westminster and Trafalgar Square, and Sue Wyatt’s sharply swift editing.

Disorder and despair are the central metaphors of this unsettling but immensely satisfying movie. Everything here has the aura of gritty spontaneity, particularly the fresh, unactorish performances of leads Jason Barry, Seagrave and Tighe.

O Mary This London British

Production

A Samuel Goldwyn release of a BBC Films production. Produced by Helen Greaves. Executive producer, Mark Shivas. Directed by Suri Krishnamma. Screenplay, Shane Connaughton.

Crew

Camera (color), Sean Van Hales; editor, Sue Wyatt; music, Stephen Warbeck; production design, Brian Sykes. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 19, 1994. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Mickey ... Jason Barry Mary ...Oba Seagrave Bimbo ... Dylan Tighe
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