Happy New Year, Colin Burstead
11th October 2018 9.00pm at Vue West End
12th October 2018 12.00pm at Vue West End
13th October 2018 12.45pm at Rich Mix
You can’t choose your relatives, and Colin Burstead certainly didn’t choose his. Mind you, it was his idea to bring them all together under one roof to celebrate the New Year. With booze, Brexit and an estranged brother in the mix, the “Sangaritas” aren’t the most intoxicating cocktails on offer tonight.
In this intimate and intricate portrait of family life, Ben Wheatley takes no prisoners. Happy New Year, Colin Burstead is as sarcastic and distinctly British as its title. You’d be hard done by to get a better cauldron for conflict (and comedy) than a clan of cockneys holed up in an English country manor. Naturally, tensions are high. At the end of each corridor lurks a colourful altercation. From the cupboards leak the sound of sobs. As we follow the Bursteads through the stately house, we are caught up in a game of cinematic hide and seek. Shot in mainly one location, the film’s camerawork is claustrophobic, the pacing strained and yet artfully sustained. Round every corner looms the imminent threat of being found.
In spite of the family feuds that bubble up, the screenplay is clever enough to cut through the tensest of scenes with Wheatley’s characteristic wit. There is endless humour to be had in the mundane; joy to be uncovered in the smallest of encounters. Alongside bitter resentment, jealousy and regret, there is love, warmth and forgiveness. Comedy and tragedy constantly flirt with each other and then fight for attention, much like the characters themselves.
In this gnarled and twisted family tree, the roots run deep and motivations are complex and manifold. There is no sympathetic hero to be found in this candid snapshot, and the moral high ground is a slippery slope. Perfection is proven a myth; instead, a series of flawed lives are woven together into a story with frayed ends. The narrative denies us an easy route in or an easy way out.
With such marvellously dysfunctional characters in the hands of such an outstanding cast, it’s hard to pinpoint any one performance. Neil Maskell’s explosively domineering Colin is the perfect antithesis to Sam Riley’s quietly smug David. Charles Dance delivers delightful surprises as Uncle Bertie, while Doon Mackichan manages to play a mother who is at once an insufferable attention seeker and the beating heart of the family. As the drama unfolds and close-up reaction shots sweep from face to face, each subtly crafted expression is picture-perfect.
Happy New Year, Colin Burstead is a celebration of British talent, a captivating, microcosmic character study that both eviscerates and elevates the idea of family in all its forms.
Happy New Year, Colin Burstead does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.