11th October 2016 6.30pm at Cineworld Haymarket
13th October 2016 3.15pm at Vue West End
16th October 2016 8.15pm at Hackney Picturehouse
Britain has a problem with nostalgia, or rather, British films can’t stop themselves from drowning in it. London Town is a case in point; a sweet love story is presented here, but the feature gets distracted by the allure of punk in late 70s, and spends too much time on The Clash and too little on its characters.
Daniel Huttlestone plays Shay (“Gwa-va-rah?”), a cockney rapscallion growing up on the outskirts of London in 1979, with Margaret Thatcher as his new prime minister. He lives with his sister and his dad Nick (Dougray Scott), works in a dull piano shop and gets bullied at school. One day, when his dad is injured at work, Shay uses his absence to find his mum, and along the way meets quirky schoolgirl Vivian (Nell Williams), dyes his hair, and discovers punk.
The budding relationship between Shay and Vivian is familiar, but it’s not bad. She is given an internal life that makes her more than a male fantasy; both struggle to live up to the image they project and both move along a believable romantic arc without unnecessary conflict. The drama involving Shay’s mum Sandrine (Natascha McElhone) works too, displaying his parents’ conflicting sensibilities in keeping with his confused, pubertal transformation.
What is unnecessary – or, at the very least, what should be downplayed – is the presence of Joe Strummer, the lead singer of The Clash. He’s portrayed by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, giving a loud, hoarse impression; the real Strummer would be horrified at this sanded-down version, who’s about as mainstream as they come. He meets Shay after some drama with a taxi, and in this fantasy, the two become very unlikely friends, which leads to a horrifyingly lame conclusion.
London Town is part of a grand British tradition of making thin, sentimental pictures about the past – as if filmmakers are ashamed of the state of the present, and want to return to a time of donkey jackets and Alf Garnett. What’s upsetting is that if London Town had its priorities straight, it might have actually been worth watching.
London Town does not have a UK release date yet. This is part of the Sonic competition in the 60th London Film Festival.
For further information about the 60th London Film Festival visit here.
Read more reviews from the festival here.
Watch the trailer for London Town here: