Reviews - Young Hearts Run Free
Young Hearts Run Free
Reviewed By John Stakes
The results (and the director himself) were on display in the Alhambra last Sunday. What could we expect for the cost of less than ten seconds’ worth (even with the addition of an extra borrowing of £13,000) of screen time for the average Hollywood factory feature? In Simpson’s case it was over 1 hour 30 minutes of gritty social realism with the 1974 miners’ strike as its backdrop, and a film that went on to win a platinum award for best low budget feature at the Houston World Film Fest earlier this year no less.
Simpson managed to coax Jennifer Bryden, already making a name for herself in “Billy Elliot”, to play Sue, a superficially sophisticated but shallow and selfish London student. Sue meets Andy Black’s Mark, the caring if somewhat naive son of mining parents who longs to better himself and hopes, with Sue’s help, to be accepted at a London art school. In this rights of passage drama things predictably run far from smoothly as the juvenile Mark makes some crucially bad errors of judgement which lead him to betray his family, community and best friend Claire in his pursuit of Sue and a better future. The whole of Simpson’s talented cast (most of which now live in London) hailed originally from the North-east yet Simpson managed to persuade them not only to return to the North largely at their own expense, but also to work for him without pay!
Simpson was but a baby in 1985 when the miners’ cause was finally crushed and Thatcher’s Government overcame Scargill’s fierce and obdurate resistance. The film is set at the time of the first Miners’ strike in 1974 when Simpson’s parents were in the thick of it. This added poignancy to the storyline as the miners still clung to the notion that by striking their cause would eventually be won and their self-deprivation would not be in vain.
The period detail was well caught but perhaps not so much the depth of feeling and atmosphere generated by a conflict which tore out the heart of industrial relations in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Probably budgetary constraints as much as anything else shaped the presentation and pacing of Simpson’s story of a failed first romance but all the essentials were in place and we came to be concerned about the characters and the outcome despite some sub-Crossroads clunky dialogue at times.
Mark’s dilemma was entirely understandable. Despite his background and concern for the miners (and particularly having lost his father in a pit accident) he lacks the one thing which will turn his love of art into a career: money. In his desire to raise cash for college, Mark even sides with the sentiments of the pit manager who declares that the Coal Board cannot afford to increase pay levels which leads Mark to become a “scab” to help raise the cost of his ticket out of adversity. When the “scabs” bus breaks down Mark is spotted and hounded. Simpson handled the ensuing flight and fight scenes with aplomb, and fully captured the atmosphere of alternating depression and fierce determination within that last sanctuary of community consolation, the local pub.
Simpson can be rightly pleased with his opening foray into the world of film which was well-received by an engaged Keswick audience. It remains to be seen whether Simpson will move up a notch into Shane Meadows territory and beyond but it was no mean feat to secure international recognition particularly in the USA at a first attempt, and who knows what doors may now open?
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