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Petty criminal Rob (Charley Palmer Rothwell) has a busier schedule than most gainfully employed people in this affecting debut feature from director Rene van Pannevis. He and best mate Leo (Thomas Turgoose) steal cars for profit and pleasure, often with Leo’s giggling girlfriend, Kasia (Morgane Polanski, daughter of director Roman), along for the ride.
Life is less of a lark at home, where Rob is the sole carer for his terminally ill father, Oswald (Tom Fisher), a former merchant seaman who has been abandoned to asbestos-related lung disease by his negligent employer. Oswald believes – or perhaps just vainly hopes – that Rob is out looking for work during the days. There’s not much of that about in their small, port-town home (Hartlepool, though it’s never named).
All four of these central performances are excellent, but it’s particularly satisfying to see Turgoose, now 28, demonstrate range far beyond the cute quirks and natural charisma he displayed as a child star: there’s something appropriately Joe Pesci-esque about Leo, a character who is by turns mirthful and menacing.
Turgoose isn’t the only Shane Meadows echo here. Pannevis has folded a nifty crime thriller into a portrait of the post-industrial, Thatcher-ravaged north of England, which derives much of its tension from just how much you come to care for the characters. Background details are scant, and much of the emotion that passes between father and son is too intense to be spoken aloud. Still, a lot can be conveyed by bickering over oven chips and cassette recorders.
The cinematography’s wide expanses of horizon and open sea avoid the grim-up-north cliches and combine poignantly with bedridden Oswald’s wanderlust-filled memories. It’s this kind of political and lyrical film-making that lingers long after Rob’s story has run out of road.
• Looted is available on digital platforms from 6 November.
Source: The Guardian
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