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Brakes review - dysfunctional relationships laid bare | reviews, news & interviews

Brakes review - dysfunctional relationships laid bare

Brakes review - dysfunctional relationships laid bare

Stellar cast in film about break-ups

Breaking up is hard to do, sang Neil Sedaka, and Mercedes Grower plays out that sentiment in a quirky, original and often funny film, which neatly subverts Hollywood romcom tropes.

It's an episodic piece (with a stellar cast) that cuts between nine couples breaking up with resignation or despair, angrily or comically. There's some unbearably honest writing, but also some rather less accomplished scenes that have the feel of improvised material.

And some stories work better than others, but there are a couple that stand out. Julia Davis is wonderful as Livy, a self-obsessed, talent-free actress smarming her way into a role and into the director's bed (Peter Wight, both pictured below) while considering a fling with fellow actor Karl (Seb Cardinal); Elliot (Julian Barratt) is a touchingly innocent man-child swooning over straight actor Raymond (Oliver Maltman) whom he tries to win back by buying him an ice cream.BrakesWhile there's some nice comedy in those episodes, in others there's a dark undertow – such as middle-aged couple (Kerry Fox and Roland Gift), whose marriage won't survive their booze-sodden mutual loathing and resentment; or the break-up between Peter and Susan (Paul McGann and Kate Hardie), who have clearly been at this point in their relationship many times over the years, in that on-off-on-off-again revolving door that so many would recognise.

Grower herself appears as Layla in the most discomfiting story. Layla is heavily pregnant by Daniel (Noel Fielding), a nasty piece who works in a sex shop and denies he's the father, and spends every moment dribbling a football, which he gives more attention than he does to her. 

Despite being made on a tiny budget, 'Brakes' often looks like a love letter to London

In the second half of the film the couples' stories are rewound for a briefer series of scenes where we are told how they got together. We see the fun and laughter of those first encounters – a couple bonding over a mutual interest in books, or a comic misunderstanding at work, or how Daniel's boyish charm, and later drugs, won over Layla, or how Raymond met Elliot when he was on a lad's weekend in Barcelona and somehow ended up back at Elliot's flat

A few stories are difficult to engage with: the posh businesswoman regretting a one-night stand with a builder who turns out to have been stalking her, an artist getting involved with a man who suffers from perpetual ennui, a long-distance couple whose Skype relationship falters with their broadband connection.

Grower – writer, director, actor and producer – shoots London on a handheld camera through the seasons. Despite being made on a tiny budget, Brakes often looks like a love letter to London while offering bleak insights into dysfunctional relationships. It's an accomplished debut.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for Brakes


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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