Film review by Jason Day of The Goob, the British drama about a young man and his life with his loving mother and violent step-father in poor, rural Norfolk. Starring Sienna Guillory and Sean Harris.
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‘Goob’ (Liam Walpole) has just left High School and is looking forward to a summer of relaxation and fun that will allow him to escape his unstable, violent, ‘lad about town’ Womack (Sean Harris). Womack is a serial love cheat, despite being in a long-term relationship with Goob’s loving mother Janet (Sienna Guillory).
When a group of European, migrant workers come for the summer harvest on a farm Womack labours at, Goob falls in love with the vibrant and beautiful Eva (Marama Corlett), putting him on a collision course with Womack who also wants her.
Review, by @Reelreviewer
I like to think I’m pretty organised with my film viewing – I have to be, to make sure this blog is as up to date as much as possible. But I very nearly missed seeing this little unassuming gem.
It was recommended by a friend weeks ago, with the note that ‘it will come off the BBC iPlayer very soon.
Letting The Oscars get too much in the way, I ignored his sage advice…only to find yesterday I had about 3 hours to view the film before it vanished from iPlayer. Suffice to say, I’ll watch iPlayer movies asap from now on.
Esteemed film critic Mark Kermode loved this movie, lauding the performances and photography.
From him, this is the highest praise for a sunny, gender-switch variant on the classic Cinderella fairytale.
Goob is the poor, mistreated Cinders, a gangly but sweet and loyal 16 year old lad consigned to living in a box by his truly wicked ‘stepfather’ when he steals the man’s racing car and, more importantly, disturbing him whilst he is having rough sex with Goob’s adoring, sweet, put-upon mother.
They are played by a cracking trio of actors on top form. Harris manages to stay in the realm of the modern make-believe and not lurch into pantomime villainy – as Kermode points out in his review, the stock car racing is symbolic of the car crash of his life.
The fall-out from Womack’s rampant sexuality almost destroys the marriage of kindly waitress Mary (Hannah Spearritt) and, it is implied, has done the same for many other relationships in this sparsely populated part of England.
Guillory walks away with the acting honours as the much maligned Janet, a Fairy Godmother consigned to the life of being a door mat. This is a lovely and touching performance, a woman who we readily believe was once the light of this area and loves her abuser too much to ever side with her son.
Walpole has little dialogue as the drudge who is swept off his feet by a foreign Princess Charming, but he says more with one intense look than a thousand words ever could.
The camerawork is, indeed, incredible, with the unending flat expanses of the Norfolk Broads showcased to great effect. They stretch out forever – Goob’s chance of escaping stultifying, abusive poverty remains perpetually, frustratingly out of his reach.
When he finishes High School, the bus driver advises him to “make sure you get out of this shit hole”. From the final shot – Goob riding his motorcycle alone – it’s questionable whether he will ever achieve this.
I wasn’t as swept off my feet by this admittedly lovely, halcyon, days of summer fable as Kermode was. I find these small-scale, updates of the type of kitchen sink drama that first appeared in this country in the 1950’s, with their frequent pauses and concentration on the minutae of everyday life limiting and self-absorbed, as if the director is too keyed in to being an ‘indie’ and neglecting telling a good story.
Sometimes, I feel like I’ve watched an extended documentary, but one with no firm point to make. I see these points in The Goob – albeit, to a lesser degree than other such films.
The unintentionally hilarious Beast is a notable example, but where Beast dawdled and failed to convince, The Goob has plenty of conviction.
But, at least I agree with Kermode on a few things we both seemed to like – which is a first for me!
Cast & credits
Director: Gary Myhill. 1hr 24mins/84 mins. BBC Films/BFI/Creative England/EMU Films/iFeatures. (18)
Producers: Michael Elliott, Lee Groombridge.
Writer: Gary Myhill.
Camera: Simon Tindall.
Music: Luke Abbott.
Sets: Ben Myhill.
Sienna Guillory, Sean Harris, Liam Walpole, Marama Corlett, Hannah Spearritt, Paul Popplewell, Oliver Kennedy, Joe Copsey, Rosa French.