Brassed Off (15)

Director:Mark Herman
Starring: Pete Postlethwaite, Ewan MacGregor, Tara Fitzgerald, Stephen Tompkinson

Channel Four have probably done more for the British Film industry than any other body. This comedy/drama is another example of a home grown success.
It is the story of a colliery brass band, under threat because of the imminent closure of the local pit. Mad keen band leader Danny (Postlethwaite) sees music as the most important thing there is. The miners are more concerned with theif future job prospects. Into town comes Gloria (Fitzgerald), who happens to play the fugelhorn. But apart from linking up with old boyfriend Andy (MacGregor), does she have another reason to be in Grimley?
In many ways, this feels like an old fashioned film. We have a cast of memorable charaters utilizing many well known tv faces like Jim Carter, Melanie Hill and Sue Johnson. We see an established, but insular community under threat, and an untrustworthy interloper.
While it is always good to see a British film, and one that is well made, there are a few problems I had with it. The pit closure programme was undoubtedly a terrible thing for many, many communities. But is it still a current issue? I was half expecting a date to pop up at the beginning to place the film in the 80s. All the management people were portrayed as slimy creeps, the film clearly establishing its political anti-Tory stance. All of the main characters have their tragic stories, from illness to debt and poverty to sheer hopelessness. It almost seemed like of a parody of the 'it's grim up-north' type drama.
The actors all do well. Postlethwaite has achieved a bit of film fame inrecent years after In the Name of the Father and The Usual Suspects. He is perfect as the obsessed conductor. Ewan MacGregor shows that he can do a pretty good Northern accent, as does Tara Fitzgerald, but neither have a lot of depth to their characters. Stephen Tompkinson has the hardest time in the film. His characters misfortunes are a bit much though.
Writer/director Mark Herman has produced an enjoyable film with you'll laugh/you'll cry bits. It just seems about 10 years out of date though.7/10

November 1996

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