Review: ‘Streetlife’

A BBC Wales production. (International sales: BBC, London.) Produced by Ruth Caleb. TX:Directed, written by Karl Francis. Camera (color, Super-16 mm), Nigel Walters; editor, Roy Sharman; music, John Hardy; production design, Ray Price; costume design, Jakki Winfield; sound, Richard Dyer, Tim Ricketts; associate producer, Helen Vallis; assistant director, Geoff Shelding. Reviewed at Edinburgh Film Festival, Aug. 24, 1995. (Also in London Film Festival.) Running time: 98 min. Jo ... Helen McCrory Kevin ... Rhys Ifans Janice ... Christine Tuckett Gail... Donna Edwards Annie ... Claire Erasmus Lynwen ... Lynwen Hobbs Sharon ... Clare Isaac Andrea ... Ruth Lloyd Terry ... John Pierce Jones Mark ... Huw Davies Jenkins ... Jeremi Cockram Tough, funny, moving and totally truthful, "Streetlife" is a socko slice-of-life low-budgeter from the Ken Loach school of working-class drama. Motored by superbly nuanced playing from National Theatre actress Helen McCrory, as a gutsy single mom forced to deal with an inconvenient pregnancy, this BBC Wales telepic deserves wide exposure at Brit-friendly festivals in addition to its small-screen airings. It's among the best work Welsh-born Karl Francis has done. Only major glitch is the heroin habit of her younger sister Andrea (Ruth Lloyd), whom Jo helps from her paltry income, which she boosts with part-time modeling and phone-sex assignments. But when she finds she's 15 weeks pregnant, it all starts to fall apart.

A BBC Wales production. (International sales: BBC, London.) Produced by Ruth Caleb. TX:Directed, written by Karl Francis. Camera (color, Super-16 mm), Nigel Walters; editor, Roy Sharman; music, John Hardy; production design, Ray Price; costume design, Jakki Winfield; sound, Richard Dyer, Tim Ricketts; associate producer, Helen Vallis; assistant director, Geoff Shelding. Reviewed at Edinburgh Film Festival, Aug. 24, 1995. (Also in London Film Festival.) Running time: 98 min. Jo … Helen McCrory Kevin … Rhys Ifans Janice … Christine Tuckett Gail… Donna Edwards Annie … Claire Erasmus Lynwen … Lynwen Hobbs Sharon … Clare Isaac Andrea … Ruth Lloyd Terry … John Pierce Jones Mark … Huw Davies Jenkins … Jeremi Cockram Tough, funny, moving and totally truthful, “Streetlife” is a socko slice-of-life low-budgeter from the Ken Loach school of working-class drama. Motored by superbly nuanced playing from National Theatre actress Helen McCrory, as a gutsy single mom forced to deal with an inconvenient pregnancy, this BBC Wales telepic deserves wide exposure at Brit-friendly festivals in addition to its small-screen airings. It’s among the best work Welsh-born Karl Francis has done. Only major glitch is the heroin habit of her younger sister Andrea (Ruth Lloyd), whom Jo helps from her paltry income, which she boosts with part-time modeling and phone-sex assignments. But when she finds she’s 15 weeks pregnant, it all starts to fall apart.

Till now all charm and promises, Kevin backpedals at the news; Jo later finds he’s been seeing one of her friends behind her back. Andrea, living with junkies in a squat, just escapes being nabbed by the police; and Jo’s mom falls seriously ill.

Though pic packs a powerful punch in its closing reels, and reads on paper like a catalog of human misery, it’s a surprisingly easy sit. The key to its success is McCrory’s character, a defiantly optimistic, unself-pitying type who comes over vividly in the actress’s perf and has the audience rooting for her all the way. London-born McCrory had to learn the accent for the part, and she melds seamlessly with the native cast.

Playing is terrific down the line, from Ifans’ smooth-talking, randy lover, through all the women at the shop, to smaller roles like Pierce Jones’ appalling father and (in the agonizing final scenes) Jeremi Cockram’s young cop who discovers the baby’s body.

Pic began as an improvised piece but later turned into a strictly scripted movie that, though showing traces of helmer Francis’ docu background, has a definite dramatic shape. Tech credits are modest but do the job.

Streetlife

(British)

Production

Setting is the town of Pontypridd, in the no-nonsense Rhondda Valley region of southern Wales, where Jo (McCrory) works in an all-femme sweatshop ironing clothes. Her life is raw but good: She has a perpetually horny married lover, Kevin (Rhys Ifans), and a young daughter; is studying to improve herself; and has managed to move out of the home of her slobby father (John Pierce Jones).
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