Monday, 25 May 2015


While mainstream entertainment makes light of Britain's poorest in the form of Benefit Street, Duane Hopkins' gritty, social realistic drama Bypass depicts life at the bottom of the food chain with harsh realism. Hopkins' film centres around teenager Tim (George MacKay) whose life is thrown upside down when his mother passes, his older brother is thrown into prison for burglary and his girlfriend falls pregnant. With his father long out the picture, it is left to George to eek out a living and look after his sister while simultaneously avoiding the bailiffs and dealing with a unknown illness that brings on painful seizures. The film is related to the works of Lynne Ramsey, Ken Loach and Andrea Arnold, there is even a bit of David Michod's Animal Kingdom, with Hopkins making no attempt to glamorise or romanticize social decay. 

There is a lot going on in Hopkins' film and with a running time of an hour and forty minutes the director makes a good effort to fit everything in but not everything sticks. The director puts so much on Tim's plate that the film has a plethora of subject matter to juggle with resulting in a sense of bloating. 

George MacKay has been rising to fame with stand out roles in the likes of How I Live Now and Pride but this is the young actor's best work so far with a psychically painful performance that perfectly captures the hardship young Tim whose life is slowly eroding away. While the other actors have less to play with Glue's Charlotte Spencer, Tim's expecting girlfriend, puts in a fine performance yet could have been gifted with more to do. Benjamin Dilloway stars as Greg, Tim's ankle tagged brother who at some point in his life could have made it has a footballer now pays the bills with an office cleaning job. If Tim is a pup in the criminal underworld, than Greg is an aged rottweiler, brooding and quiet. Dilloway gets the stand out scene in the shape of a beautifully shot chase scene through the backstreets.     

Only too often depictions of working class life is questionable at best but with Bypass Hopkins has made a perfectly crafted realistic drama that tackles the Shakesperiean theme of the sins of the father and shines a light on a version of Britain we rarely see film. While not everything works, the tension built up throughout is lost as the film comes to it's conclusion, the film's performances and beautifully gritty cinematography, which has the impressive ability to make the greyest areas of the north look attractive, creates a visually poetic depiction of living on the breadline that needs a wider release to demonstrate the power of independent cinema.


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