Helen Walsh has established a name for herself with a string of successful novels and now she makes her grand entrance into the world of cinema with directorial debut The Violators.
Set in Birkenhead, the film is something of a coming-of-age tale. 15-year-old Shelly (Lauren McQueen) lives on a council estate with her two brothers, Andy (the deadbeat) and Jerome (the cute younger brother). Having been kicked out of school, Shelly spends a lot of her time wandering the streets and stealing things, garnering the attention of Mikey (Stephen Lord), a pawn shop owner twice her age. This in turn attracts Rachel (Brogan Ellis), a bright, posh girl who has an agenda of her own.
The story unfolds in drab green and grey tones, with splashes of colour here and there. At no point is the tale sugar-coated and, for the most part, there’s a pervasive sense of realism. The two leads, both newcomers, shoulder their complex roles effortlessly. McQueen does an excellent job with Shelly’s toughness, balanced with her vulnerabilities, and Ellis pulls off Rachel’s foggy motives and far-away stare with ease. The girls’ relationship is intriguing and Walsh, who also penned the screenplay, is keen to keep the viewer guessing as to exactly what is driving their twisted bond.
Ultimately, The Violators is a solid debut, both for Walsh and for her two leads. It’s an absorbing, hard-hitting and quietly powerful tale about the ugliness teenage girls often have to face. It is not, however, perfect. The final few scenes are so jarring tonally and overdramatic that they leave one wondering precisely what it is Walsh is trying to say.
The Violators is released nationwide on 17th June 2016.
Watch the trailer for The Violators here: