on 25 March 2006
When Jimmy wakes up and sees his ex-girlfriend, Shirley, on the telly, taking part in a chat show, he can hardly believe his eyes. Then when he notices that his foster sister, Carol is sitting next to her, having her relationship with the father of her children, Charlie picked over by the participating audience, he comes properly awake. And then, when some prat comes shambling on stage with a bunch of flowers and proposes to Shirley - and Shirley, stunned and embarrassed, turns him down, Jimmy is suddenly filled with a sense of macho competitiveness and is determined to go down to Nottingham and win Shirl back. His efforts throw the lives of Shirley and her friends in to chaos.
There were three reasons to buy this DVD: 1) I live in the Midlands, 2) a host of my favourite actors are in the film and 3) it came highly recommended. Reason 1 is probably irrelevant, as a previous reviewer has mentioned. The characters in the film represent people in similar communities all over the country. Reason 2 is valid. There's Robert Carlyle (Jimmy, the idle Glaswegian petty criminal ex-boyfriend), Ricky Tomlinson (Charlie, Carol's Country and Western performer ex-partner), Kathy Burke (cheerful, tolerant Carol - but at the end of her tether with Charlie and Jimmy) and Rhys Ifans (the dorky, uninspiring but faithful Dek) - and they're all brilliant. The other, not-so-well known actors are good too. Reason 3 turned out to be right. I really enjoyed the film. Low-budget films like this have the advantage of being forced to rely on a good story, good direction and excellent acting because they can't deceive the audience with amazing special effects. It's like real life. I recognised these people. I've met people just like them - and liked them.
on 31 October 2010
I recently saw 'This is England 86' on TV and impressed by Shane Meadows thought I'd check out his filmography/back catalogue. I've enjoyed most of his other films but was very disappointed with this, especially given the excellent cast.
Plotless, meandering, unfocused, unfunny. The latter is the film's really weakness. I think Shane Meadows is an excellent writer of drama and even comic moments within drama - but outright comedy is obviously not his forte. Even the issue of comedy is problematic. This is how the film is billed (a point emphasised by its cast) and yet not only is it lacking in humour, towards the end it seems to turn into a serious drama.
[Spoilers in this next bit.] I must also say that the film lacks any psychological depth/realism. Shirley falls back in and out of love with unconvincing speed with Jimmy who in turn goes from wanting a second chance to unreconstituted slob literally overnight.
Given the title, I was also a bit disappointed that there were no references to or thematic links with Sergio Leone's work.
Like I say Shane Meadows is a talented writer/director - but he was definitely having an off year with this project. If you've seen his previous worked and enjoyed it you might be best to avoid this. It lowers his batting average.
From the days when it was a legal requirement to cast either Robert Carlyle or Rhys Ifans if you wanted to get lottery funding for a British film, Once Upon a Time in the Midlands is another in Shane Meadows' line of deeply disappointing films before he finally came into his own with Dead Man's Shoes. To be fair, the project went through major development Hell, and the results are all too obvious in the sketchy construction and characterization. Carlyle's bad boy spurred into winning back his wife Shirley Henderson (sporting the most irritating little girly voice in history) from nice guy Ifans after seeing her on a daytime TV show is never really developed or even properly introduced, and the plot, such as it is, doesn't get going until the movie is half over. The tone is awkward, with Carlyle opting for convincingly unpleasant naturalism while Ifans lapses too often into sitcom acting, leaving the acting honors to go to Kathie Burke. There are a couple of excellent moments at a park bandstand and a final confrontation that hint at a better film that could have been, but it's all too easy to share Meadows' own disappointment with the film as a whole.
on 17 October 2008
Set in the Midlands, i bought this movie because i was born in Nottingham, i spotted alot of things that were familiar with the film so i loved it.
The film itself is good, with no American actors to spoil it, it drags on a little and i think that it could have had a better storyline, i just love everything lower-class about this film, language, cars, situations are all spot on.
Great film for anyone who likes British films.
Once again writer/director turns to dysfunctional everyday family life in Britain for another touching and memorable film.
When Jimmy (Robert Carlyle) sees his ex girlfriend Shirley (Henderson) on Vanessa, he realises that he has thrown away a diamond, and sets off to the Midlands to win her back. With a fearsome reputation in the town for violence, he soon puts the wind up Shirley's new man, Dek (Ifans) and a struggle between the two men for the affections of Shirley and her daughter ensues with a mixture of tragedy and comedy.
Littered with great characters - Ricky Tomlinson as a singing cowboy, Kathy Burke (in an excellent performance) as a slightly comical everywoman, the great James Cosmo as a Scottish villain, and run through with themes of retribution and redemption so beloved of old Westerns (especially the film's namesake, Once Upon a Time in the West), Meadows has constructed a tale that takes time to examine characters, develop them and finally reach an ending that at the start of the film you would not have predicted.
The only slight duff note is, oddly enough, Robert Carlyle. This usually dependable actor fails to find any depth to his character, and just goes through the motions a little, playing his default Scottish nutcase. Apart from that, this is a great and watchable film that will amuse, move and entertain you. What more do you want? 4 stars.
on 7 March 2006
There is nothing glamorous or stylish about this extremely low budget offering.
Rhys Iffans is absolutely excellent as the nerdy family man. Robert Carlise is much less convincing as the villain.
The story is essentially a love triangle complicated by children and family ties. As often with comedy and drama, the comedy and drama lessen each others impact. The story line is entertaining and amusing, but it doesn't manage to pull on the heartstrings.
There is no Midlands theme, so please don't be attracted or put off by the title.
Recommended for all those with working class roots to watch on a rainy afternoon.
on 28 February 2006
If the interviews and commentary-track on the Dead Man's Shoes DVD are anything to go by, even Meadows himself considers this film to be something of a failure... even going so far as to take up semi-retirement until Paddy Considine could talk him into making another film. As a result of Meadows' personal opinion, coupled with the critical notices at the time, I'd avoided the film under the allusion that it was an absolute cinematic disaster... a Brit-flick turkey completely devoid of merit!! As it happens, however, the film isn't all that bad, or at least, not as bad as I'd been led to believe by the director and the critics.
The story is simple, with Meadows and co-writer Paul Fraser playfully attempting juxtapose the conventions of the western genre with the more traditional style of British storytelling favoured by the likes of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. So, we have the usual western flourishes - the lone desperado riding into town, the fight between the two protagonists over the hand of a fair maiden, and the big mid-narrative showdown in the local saloon - appearing alongside the more obvious British concerns like family-ties, shell-suits, day-time talk shows and bingo. The combination of the two forms isn't entirely successful, and it seems that the filmmakers aren't quite committed to the concept 100%, with certain parts of the film simply descending into the style of filmmaking usually reserved for an ITV social drama. The use of the widescreen "cinema-scope" photography works well, with Meadows lovingly referencing the films of Sergio Leone, most prominently in the scene in which Robert Carlisle's character Jimmy has an altercation with the bumbling Dek, brilliantly played by Rhys Ifans, at the auto-garage where he works. As well as that particular scene, there's also the big climactic face-off between the two characters, which is also perfectly handled by Meadows and his crew... with the director making great use of the frame and plenty of low-angles, whilst a crane shot rising above the houses as one of the characters drives off into the sunset is also a particularly nice touch (still... it's a shame Meadows didn't go for close-up shots of the character's eyes, ala A Fistful of Dollars, but perhaps that would have been a little too much?).
Comic relief comes courtesy of Ricky Tomlinson and Kathy Burke in supporting roles, with both actors doing their usual trademark shtick to great effect (for example, a scene in which Burke's character accidentally gets hit on the head with a projectile microphone is bound to generate more laughs that you'd probably expect!!). Carlisle and Shirley Henderson are both good in their pivotal roles, though for me it's Ifans who really impresses, managing to make his character likable and believable as he progresses through the film from meek-doormat into someone who is willing to fight for the family he loves. This is the second film I've seen, following Enduring Love, in which Ifans hasn't seemed like a complete caricature (like he did in Notting Hill and Human Nature), with both films showing his capacity to switch from sly humour to emotional drama within a single scene and furthering his metamorphosis into one of the UK's greatest actors.
Once Upon A Time... is by no means as impressive or inspiring as other films by Meadows, in particular A Room For Romeo Brass and Dead Man's Shoes, but it's enjoyable enough and charming in it's own way, with Meadows and Fraser balancing an interesting story with an imaginative concept and a handful of strong performances. It's certainly worth picking up if you can find it in the budget-price range, as the DVD comes with a second disk or great entertainment, with making-of documentaries, deleted scenes and interviews, as well as the great Shane's World compilation that was shown on Channel 4 a few years back (...basically a collection of four short films by Meadows, inter-cut with 'Tanks Tips', a how-to guide to short filmmaking, presented by Meadows in character, as the legendary Tank Bullock).
'Once Upon A Time In The Midlands' (2002) was Shane Meadow's third film, for me it's one his most unmemorable movies to date (only because he has made some true British classics in recent years) but it's still an entertaining comedy nevertheless.
With a strong cast of British talent including the wonderful Ricky Tomlinson, Kathy Burke and Robert Carlyle (one of my favourites), all of whom give good, 'real' and convincing performances. This film is a simple social comedy/drama reminstant of an average Ken Loach movie.
After seeing his ex-girlfriend turn down a marriage proposal (by her new boyfriend Dek) live on a television chat show, Jimmy, a small-time, Scottish born villain (Carlyle) returns to his hometown in the Midlands in an attempt to try and win her back. A love triangle develops when Dek and Jimmy fight for her affections, whilst other family members are caught up in the middle of it all. It's a simple enough plot but with a good deal of humour (Ricky Tomlinson made me laugh as the country music enthusiastic singer).
Here we have a working class movie which entertained me on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Not essential, but still worth checking out.
on 8 October 2009
Once Upon a Time in The Midlands is a very good movie about fairly ordinary people. Illustrating the complications that can arise in lives that are never 'black and white' in terms of emotions. Excellent acting by Rhys Ifans and Robert Carlyle. Both favorites of mine for their gritty performances in many other good movies they are expert at their craft. This is not an exciting movie..but simply very good light drama with a lot of humour. The life of two people and a child in the balance. This is the setting for this movie. The child being torn between two people, one being her real father who is an utter waster (played by Robert Carlyle) and the other a sweet, loving and kind (if not very exciting personality)the lover, (played by Rhys Ifans). These two actors are well casted in these roles, as their own skills in acting are displayed to their best. All in all a good movie to keep. In the style of a good bit of British movie making!
on 25 October 2003
Shane Meadows has once again tapped into the East Midlands resources with a Western twist. The story is a wonderful tragic/comedy with many well known characters from TV, which gives the film that something extra. Finn Atkins is brilliant as the young daughter who makes the decisions for the dithering adults, and excels in her first movie role. Shame about so much foul language. Ignore that, and you'll love the movie.