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Here’s a charmless comedy drama set in Brixton, London, about the lead singer of a crap rock band (called the Undefined) who gets diagnosed with throat cancer. He is the horrifically irritating Aaron (Alex Gillison), a man with the unwinning combination of a Kurt Cobain haircut, eyeliner and Russell Brand’s fondness for a chest-exposing T-shirt. Despite having practically nothing interesting to say he is forever breaking the fourth wall to bang on to the camera in grandiose mockney.
Aaron formed the Undefined in secondary school with his mates. Now in their mid-20s, they’re still playing gigs in local dives to audiences of underage kids with fake IDs. But the band is Aaron’s life, so when his oncology consultant – a candidate for cinema’s least convincing medic – explains that chemotherapy is not compatible with his lifestyle, Aaron skips his treatment. “What’s more important, rock’n’roll or life?” his on-off girlfriend implores.
South of the River is a pretty depressing watch, with not much in the way of entertainment or humour. A subplot involving Aaron’s bandmate Jackson having pretensions to being bisexual like David Bowie could have been written in 1987. Director Joe Watkins gives us the film’s best performance as Jackson, a warm, affectionate wally, though even Guy Ritchie would find his unreconstructed banter about “birds” and a “bit of crumpet” dated. This feels like one of those low-budget British films that was presumably aimed as a TV issue drama but wouldn’t make the cut.
• South of the River is released on 2 November on digital formats.
Source: The Guardian
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