Shane Meadows’s Dead Man’s Shoes is fearless for not adhering to any conventional notion of how sound should complement image. The director’s postcard-gritty vision of rural Britain is scored to cheery folk music and the disparity is not cynical but crudely provocative and quietly unsettling. The story isn’t up to snuff—Richard (Paddy Considine) returns to his hometown to destroy the men who victimized his mentally handicapped brother Anthony (Toby Kebbell) years earlier—but the implosive performances and Meadows’s aesthetic pick up the slack. The black-and-white flashbacks to Anthony’s abuse have the jejune quality of an Afterschool Special, and the boy’s conversations with his brother suggest a kitchen-sink adaptation of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, but a nervy drug-tripping sequence baldly lays out Meadows’s theory about the past and present interlocked in crisis. The director does not use Richard’s drugging of Anthony’s abusers as an excuse to generate cheap laughs but to illustrate the torment of a bad trip—no babies crawling on the ceiling or funny little ecstasy-induced dance numbers, only a sad spectacle of guilt-ridden anxiety and regression. Kebbell’s performance is an unpretentiously deployed catalogue of tics and Considine hawks a striking cipher, an avenging angel whose metaphysical communion with otherworldly energies is echoed in the film’s creepily unhinged, stewy surface.
- Magnolia Pictures
- 86 min
- Shane Meadows
- Shane Meadows
- Paddy Considine, Gary Stretch, Toby Kebbell, Jo Hartley, Seamus O'Neill, Stuart Wolfenden, Paul Sadot, Paul Hurstfield, Emily Aston, George Newton, Neil Bell
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