Comedy Oddities: Brakes

brakes index

A very low budget British film starring Julian Barratt, Julia Davis, Steve Oram, Paul McGann, Noel Fielding, Kerry Fox and various others, Brakes is told in two parts with the second coming first as we see a variety of relationships breaking up, and then in the first part the couples getting together. Shot over four years with the cast giving their time up for free, given the quality of the actors involved I hoped it be a fun watch but sadly it wasn’t to be.

The best scenes involve Julian Barratt and his wife Julia Davis, though alas they don’t have any time on screen together. But seeing Barratt desperately trying to persuade a guy he had a one night stand with in Spain to enter in to a relationship with him is pretty amusing, as is their interactions the morning after their first meeting. Julia Davis is also on top form as an actress who got together with the director in the hope of getting a role, but ends up being dumped by him because he’s all a bit of a twat.

There’s also some segments which have a few funny moments in amongst the dullness, Noel Fielding working in a porn shop in Soho elicited some laughs and a couple dressed as a zombie and the Bride of Frankenstein have a few involving scenes as they’re relationship falls apart, but both of these also have some terrible elements to them, with Fielding entering in to an argument with his girlfriend in some grimy toilets being one of the most irritating things I’ve ever witnessed on film.

It also wastes a good few of it’s cast members, Paul McGann gets little to do when he’s dumped at a train station and worst of all is a scene which I feared might never end where Roland Gift (sadly not a great actor) and Kerry Fox (who is, but she’s wasted here) have a long and protracted boring scene where they quietly argue about Gift’s lack of reliability and it’s lacking in anything of interest in the slightest. Meanwhile Steve Oram’s flirtations with a woman he meets at a swimming pool could have been interesting but then never really go anywhere, and that particular break up reveals his character to be an agonisingly rubbish bloke.

It’s shot on video and clearly a very low budget affair, but while it might not be the prettiest film ever made it is well directed by Mercedes Grower, though that’s one of only a few positives about it. While there was a rough outline to proceedings it’s largely improvised and like pretty much every improvised movie ever made it’s an incredibly uneven affair. Sold as a black comedy it’s really a light grey dramedy at the very most, and though some segments are enjoyable frustratingly it’s often the ones we see the least of.

I wanted to like this and it did start off fairly well but it quickly became tediously serious and shouty and I struggled to stick with it. It’s one of those films that really could have benefited from having a script, there’s some nice ideas but too much dullness and whoever thought Roland Gift and Kerry Fox would make for an intriguing couple has committed one of cinema’s greatest crimes. There’s about thirty minutes of interesting material here but when a film runs for eighty five that’s an enormous problem, and due to this I can’t really recommend it to even the various actor’s biggest fans.

Alex Finch.

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