Flagged by the Guardian as “the best British film of the year” in 2006, ‘London to Brighton’ is a story that portrays real life social issues. Written and directed by Paul Andrew Williams, Williams states that his aim was to “create a piece of work that bled reality, that created a world generally ignored by today’s society, a world full of characters that we pass by everyday “. It’s a dark film that explores that dark underside of society and portrays a seedier side of Brighton familiar from Brighton Rock.
The film explores social problems that really are the result of the “de-industrialisation “of the UK in the 1980s. A time when the unemployment in the traditional industries led to a change in the role of men in particular then family values broke down. We see this throughout the movie and the portrayal of what is no more than an underclass with the abusers almost as victims of the change in society.
The film itself tells the story of Joanne and Kelly, and their desperate flee from a vengeful mobster’s son. The movie begins with Joanne (played by Georgia Groome), an eleven-year-old runaway girl, crying in a public bathroom. Trying to calm her down is Kelly (Lorraine Stanley), a twenty five year old prostitute, complete with a desperate-looking black eye.
Throughout the film, the viewers through a series of flashbacks can start to piece the story together. We are introduced to Stuart, who has found his father lying dead on the floor killed by Joanne and Kelly Stuart is confused and questions a man named Derek about his father, who seems to believe that the last people to see his father alive were a young girl and a woman.
It all starts to come together, as we see that Derek is Kelly’s pimp. Derek had instructed Kelly to find a young girl for his boss, an old mobster, to sleep with. Kelly then goes on a search for runaways and finds Joanne begging at Waterloo station. She takes her to Derek, where he offers her money to spend some time with his boss. It is clear that Kelly regrets what she’s done and is uncomfortable with the deal, but she has no power to stop it.
Back to the present, the girls have no choice but to flee London, with Kelly taking Joanne to hide out at her friend’s place in Brighton. Kelly starts to develop maternal instincts towards Joanne, prostituting herself in order to raise money for the young girl to go home to her grandmother in Devon. The two women bonding together in Brighton is sadly interrupted by the betrayal by Kelly’s friend, as she rats them out to the pimp, Derek.
Derek and his goon then kidnap the girls and take them to the middle of nowhere, where an angry Stuart is waiting for them. The two men start to dig graves for the girls as Stuart questions Joanne. In a twist of fate and a change of heart, Stuart instead kills the two men, sparing Kelly and Joanne’s lives. He starts to see that the girls are the real victims, after realizing the horrible actions of his disturbed mobster father.
The BFI review comments on how Stuart, the mobster’s son, actually relates with Joanne, as they are both vulnerable in their own way. So as they talked, he understood her and felt sympathy for her. Now free from fear, the girls make their way to Devon, where Kelly leaves Joanne in the arms of her grandmother. She walks away, happily looking on at them from a distance.
The movie received extremely positive reviews when it was released, with critics praising the acting and the originality that the director brought to British cinema. The cinematography itself is worth mention with its documentary close up style creating a start realism.
FOOTNOTE AND A THOUGHT FOR THE FESTIVE SEASON: the theme is unsettling and it acts as a note for modern times. The threat to the young in the UK from sexual exploitation is very real. You can find out more from The Children’s Society. The Children’s Society fight child poverty and neglect, and help all children have a better chance in life. You can find out more HERE