Neds Review


In his first directorial role since The Magadalene Sisters which came out 8 years ago, Peter Mullan delivers a hard-hitting drama which makes a poignant cry to the working-class gang culture within Glasgow during the 1970s.

Neds follows the hugely gifted John Mcgill (played by Conor McCarron) exceeding his peers at school and with aspirations of attending university. However, his transgression to secondary school meets him with uninspiring teachers who have given up on a youth where education is disregarded in favour of gang violence and drinking.

As McGill approaches adolescence, he is left with the tenuous decision as to how he will shape his future. Unaided by a lack of encouragement, his brilliance is hindered by his fate as a poor working-class boy from a broken family which consists of an abusive alcoholic father (excellently portrayed by Mullan), a submissive mother (Louise Goodall) and a brother (Joe Szula) who is always in scraps with the law.

This coming of age story is illustrious in its capturing of the stress of social pressure within class. This is made evident in his dismissal by the mother of his middle-class friend Julian (Martin Bell) who he is told no longer to mix with.

McCarron, despite his somewhat thuggish and dim-witted appearance creates an endearing character whose often confused and sensitive looks gives the impression that he no longer knows what he is doing, straying away from the person he really is by creating a persona that is alien to his nature.

Perhaps one of the reasons why the film appears so powerful is Mullan’s use of many non-professional actors found on some of the estates where filming took place which adds a definite authenticity to the film.

Despite being predominately excellent, the film does, however, fall on some minor points. The closing third of the film seems to wane as the viewer is left to wonder where the plot is being led and the film seems to have more than a passing resemblance to Shane Meadows’ This is England although delivered in a more ingenuous and grittier fashion.

However, it is undeniable that Mullan has created a film that is brutally honest in its portrayal of a gang culture that is still prevalent today in a film that is both shocking and yet incredibly sad, allowing him a firm place amongst some of the finest British filmmakers.

Taken from The Student, published Tue Jan 25th 2011.

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