Once Upon a Time in the Midlands  [DVD]
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Dek (Rhys Ifans) and Shirley (Shirley Henderson) live together happily, until Dek proposes to her on national TV. Enter Shirley's ex Jimmy (Robert Carlyle), the (very) absent father of her daughter who Shirley hasn't seen for 20 years. Will she say yes to Dek or is Jimmy in with a chance?
Once Upon a Time in the Midlands is credited as the closing part in a loosely connected trilogy by director Shane Meadows. A Room for Romeo Brass (1999) and Twenty Four Seven (1997) preceded it, and ultimately the viewer will be hard pressed to discern anything other than the British Midlands locale linking them together. That and the generally grim tone. Here we have what boils down to a tale of a girl (Shirley Henderson) who can't decide between two guys (her ex, Robert Carlyle, or her current boyfriend, Rhys Ifans). Wrapped up in some easy comedy and framed in the occasional nod to the spaghetti western genre, the movie initially has plenty in its favour. Unfortunately, the intrusion of a B-plot, involving some Scottish thugs, overpowers the more pleasant family portrait. As a result, the stellar performances by Kathy Burke and Ricky Tomlinson get lost in the drama of the love triangle. After swinging back and forth indecisively, Shirley's conclusion to the tale doesn't have the emotional punch that it should have. This third Midlands tale may be the most accessible in terms of familiar characters and aspects of contemporary British life, but it isn't the kind of escapist movie experience suggested by its title. --Paul Tonks --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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.
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.
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