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Hold Back the Night

Three social outcasts hook up for a dose of self-discovery in British road movie "Hold Back the Night," but pic loses it dramatic bearings long before their camper reaches the Scottish Highlands. Sophomore outing by actor-cum-director Phil Davis has almost none of the grit, drama or involving characterization of his flawed but worthwhile debut, the soccer-hooligan drama "i.d." Theatrical chances look distinctly iffy.

Three social outcasts hook up for a dose of self-discovery in British road movie “Hold Back the Night,” but pic loses it dramatic bearings long before their camper reaches the Scottish Highlands. Sophomore outing by actor-cum-director Phil Davis has almost none of the grit, drama or involving characterization of his flawed but worthwhile debut, the soccer-hooligan drama “i.d.” Theatrical chances look distinctly iffy.

Charleen (Christine Tremarco), a hard-assed, working-class northerner, slips away from her home one night and in a pub meets Declan (Stuart Sinclair Blyth), a Scottish eco-warrior who’s protesting the building of a highway through a forest. Nervy, aggressive and in-your-face, Charleen is attracted to the quieter Declan — whom she initially uses as a sex machine — but the two are forced to flee the following morning when the authorities arrive to break up his group’s sit-in and Charleen accidentally brains a man with a lump of wood.

The two kids slip through the police roadblock with the help of Vera (Sheila Hancock), an ailing single woman who’s driving north on an odyssey of her own. After visiting Charleen’s Uncle Bob (Kenneth Colley), who promptly tries to rape her, the couple again meet Vera by chance and accompany her on her journey.

On a technical level, the movie is solidly put together and gets considerable visual mileage out of the landscape as the odd trio drive ever northwards. As a character-driven drama, however, pic fails to cohere, with each of the three leads virtually performing in isolation.

Blyth makes little impression as the dreadlocked eco-warrior and never convinces in either his attraction to Charleen or his passion for the environment. Veteran Hancock, adopting a plummy accent that’s close to parody, looks like even she doesn’t believe her character — a lonely, ex-army lesbian with a rebellious streak who wants to watch a sunrise in the Orkney islands before she expires (conveniently on cue).

Tremarco, who’s had good supporting roles in “Priest,” “Face” and “Under the Skin,” dominates the movie as Charleen, an aggressive, foul-mouthed youngster who’s barely keeping the lid on her shattered emotions as an abused child. But fine though it is, her perf hardly connects with those of the other two — a fault more of the casting and Steve Chambers’ weak script than of the thesp herself.

Peter-John Vettese’s bland song score, which weighs in at the slightest excuse for a traveling montage, only serves to underline the movie’s essential shallowness — plus a general indecision whether “Night” is a realistic emotional drama or more commercially packaged road movie.

Hold Back the Night

(DRAMA -- BRITISH)

  • Production: A Film Consortium/FilmFour presentation, in association with the Arts Council of England, BIM Produzione and WavePictures, of a Parallax Pictures production. (International sales: The Sales Co., London.) Produced by Sally Hibbin. Co-producers, Torsten Leschly, Sarah McCarthy. Directed by Phil Davis. Screenplay, Steve Chambers. Camera (Deluxe color prints), Cinders Forshaw; editor, Adam Ross; music, Peter-John Vettese; production designer, Chris Roope; art director, Stephen Campbell; costumes, Paul Farrow; sound (Dolby Digital), Stuart Bruce; assistant director, Harry Boyd; casting, Gail Stevens. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Critics Week), May 13, 1999. Running time: 112 MIN.
  • Crew:
  • With: Charleen ..... Christine Tremarco Declan ..... Stuart Sinclair Blyth Vera ..... Sheila Hancock With: Richard Platt, Julie Ann Watson, Kenneth Colley, Tommy Tiernan, Andrew Livingstone, Bruce Bryon, Peter Anders, Lars Oostveen, Hannah Bridges.
  • Music By: