sat 04/04/2020

DVD: NEDS | reviews, news & interviews



Peter Mullan's firebrand of a film sees a bright spark turn delinquent

Peter Mullan’s incendiary and long-overdue third feature is an unflinching, often hilarious look at a teenager’s inexorable descent into delinquency. NEDS (or Non-Educated Delinquents) begins in Glasgow in 1972, immersed in a rosy haze of promise as the chubby-cheeked, saucer-eyed John McGill graduates from primary school. Moments later he’s being threatened with a beating to end all beatings by a malevolent peer.

It’s a story told in academic milestones, violent street clashes and graffiti. When the talented scholar John starts secondary school his older brother Benny’s name adorns the walls in towering script. He is tasked with proving himself distinct from this inauspicious but still formidable legacy, yet at the same time has to exist in its shadow.

The quiet determination and shining virtuousness of the younger John, as played by Gregg Forrest, is replaced by a more complex beast as John moves into his teenage years and is recast. Conor McCarron is astonishing as the taciturn teen, simmering with dark potential, empowered by violence, consumed by fate.

Mullan writes and directs with vigour and verve whilst also appearing in a small but unforgettable role as John’s psychotic, booze-addled father. He isn’t afraid to marry realist fervour with more absurd and even outré elements: a gang fight during which a boy’s throat is slit is lent an aura of unlikely romance by “Cheek to Cheek” on the soundtrack; and a teacher provides latecomers with a sarcastic piggyback (a terrific cameo from OrphansGary Lewis). From raucous Scotch humour to unvarnished misery, NEDS is courageous and rambunctious - a four-alarm fire of a film.

The slender extras comprise a 23-minute interview filmed at the BFI Southbank in October 2010, during which the amiable Mullan speaks insightfully about his experiences making the film. There’s also a selection of deleted scenes, including more of David McKay’s highly entertaining performance as the summer school teacher, Mr Holmes.

Watch the trailer for NEDS

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