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  Away Blackpool Blues
Year: 2016
Director: David Blair
Stars: Juno Temple, Timothy Spall, Hayley Squires, Matt Ryan, Susan Lynch, Tony Pitts, Terry Stone, Joanna Roth, Reece Noi, Melanie Clare
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ria (Juno Temple) is in trouble, she has just stolen a holdall packed with drugs from her boyfriend Dex (Matt Ryan), or should we say ex-boyfriend for he has been ill-treating her, to say the least, pimping her out for money that she rarely sees. She makes up her mind to make a quick exit from their London flat after he assaults her in a pub toilet, but she has her "sister" to look after as well, as Kaz (Hayley Squires) is a troubled soul too: they grew up in a care home together, before they opted to run away. They are a little older now, but life is no less harsh, and as Ria escapes up North to Blackpool she is desperate to protect her best friend; however, someone she meets may need her help just as much.

Away was the meeting of two Brit thesps who had been impressing for some time, one for longer than the other, as the co-star for Temple was essentially Timothy Spall, playing Joseph who we are introduced to having attempted suicide pathetically with four painkiller pills, and is lying on the floor of the same hotel Ria has checked into. However, the script by Roger Hadfield was playing tricks with time, as it jumped around in the narrative, which could get a little unclear for the audience on what was happening and when. Fortunately, the strength of acting on display tended to paper over the cracks this technique could bring about, in their odd couple kind of manner.

Ria and Joseph don't, thankfully, play out that old cliché of the older man, younger woman romance so often implemented as an excuse to pair some ageing male star with an up and coming starlet acting as a boost to his ego, and in fact there was a scene here that referenced that style of storytelling and made it clear this was not that sort of story. No, it was a more paternal interest Joseph took in his new companion, though that came about with extreme reluctance since he does not believe he deserves company for reasons that emerge closer to the conclusion, but are telegraphed in advance so we can guess what is weighing so heavily on his shoulders with some accuracy.

Meanwhile, Ria believes he owes it to her to look after her, for she is convinced he saved her life, unaware he was more keen on ending his own than rescuing anyone else who may have been in the room at the time. It was a curious arrangement, this, an apparent slice of life drama concentrating on the people who often get lost or left behind in the modern world, but infused with gritty gangster thriller elements that would not be out of place in a direct to DVD after the pub on a Friday night entertainment, as Dex works out where Ria is and menaces his way through the cast to get her, and perhaps more importantly, get back his expensive stash. What saved this from seediness was the genuine respect between Temple and Spall that was obvious in every scene they shared, creating a compelling relationship.

Not to say it was not a shade contrived, but you could forgive that when the effects were an unusual drama that may have tipped over into melodrama eventually - you could see that coming as well - yet the sequences where the central pair simply hang out were impressive enough to establish the basis for a neat two-hander play, never mind a British indie movie. As it turned out, even with the respected David Blair at the helm, he of cult classic television series Takin' Over the Asylum fame, if you could call that fame, Away did not make many waves outside of the fanbases of both stars, it was the flavour of yarn that would do very nicely when caught on late night TV with no previous expectations, but it did have a vivid sense of Blackpool with all its tourists' delights and dangerous pitfalls for the unwary or vulnerable. Susan Lynch had an extended cameo in one scene trying to buy the drugs from Ria, a scene stealer in fact, and it was a mark of quality that we could have followed any one of the characters lower down the cast list and this would be just as engaging. What we did have was Temple and Spall, and they carried this with their accustomed skill. Music by Anne Dudley.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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