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6/10. Brassed off
on 24 January 2008
Like Shane Meadows' later `This is England', `A Room For Romeo Brass' is a coming of age drama revolving around friends growing up in the working class Midlands. Both films feature friendships tested by the divisive arrival of an influencial older figure. The protagonists in both films seek friendship to escape disappointment or disenfranchisement from family life. While the latter film places this scenario in the context of class conflict in Thatcher's britain and the rise of the skinhead movement, the thematic concerns of `Romeo Brass' are less contemporaneous. Its outsider comes in the surreal shape of Morel (played by the brilliant Paddy Considine), a small-town oddball who takes an instant and ultimately obsessive interest in the eponymous character's sister. Considine is always fascinating to watch (from Meadows' own `Dead Man's Shoes' to Pawel Pawlikowski's `My Summer of Love') and he is by turns hilarious and terrifying here as the volatile Morel.
For all Considine's brilliance on screen there is something lacking in this film's purpose. Whereas This is England's small-scale drama manages to address wider social decline in a specific historical context, A Room For Romeo Brass` concerns are perhaps not broad enough. It is certainly not the first film about an obsessive and intimidating individual insinuating himself into family life (cinema is rife with them, from the great to the really poor). Once you take that out of the equation, there is not a great deal else to capture the imagination. Its stark Midlands setting, non-professional actors and a liberal use of improvisation are all classic Meadow's hallmarks - harking back to kitchen sink dramas of the British New Wave in the 1960s. Coupled with the director's handpicked indie, pop and reggae soundtrack, it is easy to see why his moniker `Scorcese of the Midlands' persists. However, `A Room for Romeo Brass' is simply an enjoyable film, not a very good one, and compares unfavourably to some of his other works.