Like recent low-budget Britpic “The Jolly Boys’ Last Stand,” Elliot Hegarty’s debut feature “County Kilburn” is a good example of unindulgent DV film-making that deserved a shot at celluloid. An engaging local character comedy set among a group of idlers in a London pub, it reps a difficult commercial sell due to its thin subject matter but is a strong calling card for Hegarty’s future big-screen career.
A district in northwest London heavily populated by Irish, Kilburn has the distinction of having a bar every 40 yards along its main street. In one of these, the downmarket Waggon & Horses, young Irish barman Mickey (Ciaran Mcmenamin) is on his last week in the job – and alone at the helm, following a heart attack by the owner while drinking a glass of Guinness. Troubled by an ongoing g.f. problem, Mickey reckons there must be more to life than pulling pints.
Divided into sections by days, pic is essentially a series of ongoing character sketches centered on the bar’s small lineup of regulars, for whom the place represents a cozy home away from home. Mickey’s school friend, Johno (Rick Warden), is a seemingly well-adjusted guy who hides a secret about his continuing unemployment; Black Jack (John Bowe, excellent) is an ornery misogynist who’s not all he seems; Billy (Simon Sher-lock) is a flashy car salesman; and the grumpy, monosyllabic Mr. Bollox (veteran Norman Rodway) is named after the one word in his vocabulary.
The bar’s placid routine is suddenly shaken by the arrival halfway of sexy, forthright Sue (Georgia Mackenzie), an old school friend long fancied but never conquered by both Mickey and Johno. Mickey offers her a short-term job behind the bar, and she turns out to have surprises in store for both guys.
Despite being set in Kilburn, film could almost take place anywhere, as the clientele is only marginally Irish and the humor more generally Brit-ish (specifically London) in flavor. Ensemble playing is excellent, and Hegarty, shooting and cutting like a regular movie, juggles the characters and storylines with considerable skill. Running time is admirably tight.
Sound on version caught was occasionally rough and unbalanced, but will be corrected in the final mix, per Hegarty, now that completion money has finally arrived.