Once Upon a Time in the Midlands

"Good"

Once Upon a Time in the Midlands Review


Jimmy (Robert Carlyle) is a low-life criminal who abandoned wife and child. It's been three years since he ran out on them and, one morning, he sees wife Shirley (Shirley Henderson) on a TV chat show being proposed to and rejecting her suitor. Sensing that she's moved up some in the world, this provokes him to stage a marital comeback and take advantage of what could be an opportunity. So, he finishes some business with his criminal chums, taking part in a small-time caper and, when it goes wrong, he absconds with the loot.

Meanwhile, downy-voiced, sexy Shirley lives with good-natured, easy going Dek (Rhys Ifans), her suitor on TV, and her daughter Marlene (Finn Atkins) in Dek's house. She and Dek profess their love for each other frequently enough to make you gag, which also makes you wonder why she would turn Dek down on national telly. Could she still feel something for the husband lurking somewhere out there in the badlands of Glasgow?

This sets the stage for Jimmy's spaghetti-western style reappearance as the local tough guy. And, as it turns out, the foundations of Shirley and Dek's domesticity prove shakier than even Jimmy could have wished. It's not that Shirley, clearly an object of any man's desire, is confused. She just seems to be in love with whichever man is in her presence at any time, and the main question of the film is about what choice she'll ultimately make.

Besides the effect on Dek, it's a matter of no trivial concern to pre-teen Marlene, who dearly loves Dek as though he were her real father. As awkward and wimpy as he is, he's the most loving and dependable of the two fathers and, when her mother's poor choice threatens that which she holds dearest, she tries to take off with Dek, the father she prefers.

Others involved in the drama of mixed up allegiences and emotional antics are Jimmy's mouthy sister Carol (Kathy Burke) who is aware of his errant ways but has been his wife's best friend as well; and her hubby, folk singing Charlie (Ricky Tomlinson), equally faithful to both sides and caught up in its contradictions. There are also the guys at Dek's auto business who are bemused by his pathetic chest-thumping, and Jimmy's gang chasing him down for revenge and for the money.

It should be mentioned that much of the dialogue, especially from these supporting players, is obscured by deep regional dialects with no translation in sight. American ears will miss some of it.

Though Carlyle (The Full Monty) seems to show up in a lot of roles that seem too big for his screen stature, here he provides enough menace that you don't wish for Roberts De Niro or Robert Mitchum. Ifans (The Shipping News, Notting Hill), playing the wronged, cartoonish weakling to a point beyond what sympathy requires, strains credulity and our ability to give a damn about his plight. The standout is honest little 12-year old Finn Atkins in a debut role who, with Henderson (Topsy-Turvy, Bridget Jones's Diary), are worth the price of admission if you're willing to put out some cash for the contrived scenario.

Writer-director Shane Meadows (A Room for Romeo Brass) has brought film knowledge and a modicum of taste to the creation of this western-styled, city-set take on the love triangle but, with co-writer Paul Fraser, makes some choices that turns humor to silliness and his Shirley character to false simplicity. Despite endearing elements of family love throughout the film, it's done in by an exaggeration that elevates fickle to emotional stupor and sympathetic to pathetic.

Once upon a time at a screening room.



Once Upon a Time in the Midlands

Facts and Figures

Run time: 104 mins

In Theaters: Friday 6th September 2002

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

Production compaines: Senator Film Produktion, Film Council, EM Media, Big Arty Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 51%
Fresh: 38 Rotten: 37

IMDB: 6.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Jimmy, as Dek, as Shirley, as Carol, as Charlie, as Vanessa

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.