Spit-polished with Greengrassian artistic din, London to Brighton is kitchen-sink realism without soul—and for part of its muddled running time, one song short of being a Spice Girls origin story. Really it’s the saga of a beat-up cockney prostitute, Kelly (Lorraine Stanley), and a prepubescent runaway, Joanne (Georgia Groome), on the lam from a belligerent pimp, for reasons that are revealed slowly over the course of the film via snippets from the night before. This pretzeling of past and present is all surface, more gimmick than eye-opening act of conscious-raising, not unlike the dubious use of handheld. A hopped-up Mike Leigh, writer-director Paul Andrew Williams’s purview is guttersniping, but he’s lurid without being sensitive to causality and consequence: A self-conscious shot of a graffiti-strewn wall, loudly shoehorned into a scene rather than being a natural extension of it, is basically the extent of his social conviction, but given what a one-way subway ride costs in London, it’s hard not to sympathize with Kelly’s repeated attempts to score tricks in order to pay for her and Joanne’s transportation expenses. Peering into the lives of a community’s lowest-of-lows more noisily than Gone Baby Gone, London to Brighton is also less sincere, hinging ludicrously on the identity and purpose of a mysterious gangster who would have been played by David Bowie if the film had been made 30 years ago. What should be a stirring morality tale plays like the implausible first chapter in an anti-pedophile superhero’s do-gooder crusade.
- Paul Andrew Williams
- Paul Andrew Williams
- Lorraine Stanley, Johnny Harris, Georgia Groome, Sam Spruell, Alexander Morton, Nathan Constance, Claudie Blakley, Jamie Kenna, David Keeling, Jack Deam, Chloe Bale
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