Made in Britain: Red Road

If there’s one genre of cinema/ literature that we’re the undisputed heavyweight champions of the world in then it’s urban misery. Well, either that or obnoxious costume drama. Going right back to the 19th Century, Britain has churned out countless examples of Kitchen Sink/ Urban Misery type drama. Dickens, although making a social point, wasn’t exactly light on it, then there was Sillitoe’s superb Saturday Night, Sunday Morning (made into an excellent film with Albert Finney), Look Back in Anger was the stage version, and as the 20th Century progressed, we managed to bang out literally hundreds of films that all revel in the squalor of working class unhappiness: This Sporting Life, My Name is Joe, Once Upon a Time in the Midlands, The Hawk (ostensibly a serial killer film, but really about crap suburban life), Naked, Nil By Mouth, This is England and so forth. Basically, if you see the names Ken Loach, Shane Meadows or Mike Leigh attached to something then chances are it isn’t going to be a bundle of chuckles. If there’s one other thing that modern Britain is big on, aside from drunken chavs, then it’s CCTV:  we are the most watched  nation in the world, with in 2006 an estimated 4.2m cameras spying on us. That’s one for every 14 people, and our image is captured over 300 times every day. As if that wasn’t distressing enough, apparently 20% of the world’s CCTV cameras are to be found in Britain. One of the more recent additions to this depressing genre is Andrea Arnold’s Red Road, a film that combines misery with  surveillance and, believe it or not, this one isn’t big on comedy either.

One thing these films all have in common, aside from being relentlessly grim, is that they are all usually nominated for some award or another. Red Road, was Britain’s entry at Cannes (I do believe it won a Grand Jury prize), and judging by the critical onanism out there over it, I’m nigh on certain that it must have scooped other awards elsewhere.

Tropical paradise Glasgow

Proving to be quick on the update as always, Red Road is a British Dogme film. For those that don’t know what Dogme was, it comes from a manifesto penned in 1995 by Danish borehound Lars Von Trier. The goal was to pare down film making to focus on the core aspects such as story, character and theme. As if that isn’t farty enough, Von Trier (probably once he’d finished crying) and the director of Festen, Thomas Vinterberg, laid out the “Vow of Chastity”: 10 criteria that any film has to meet to be Dogme:

  1. Filming must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in. If a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found.
  2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. Music must not be used unless it occurs within the scene being filmed, i.e., diegetic.
  3. The camera must be a hand-held camera. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. The film must not take place where the camera is standing; filming must take place where the action takes place.
  4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable (if there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).
  5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
  6. The film must not contain superficial action (murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
  7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden (that is to say that the film takes place here and now).
  8. Genre movies are not acceptable.
  9. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.
  10. The director must not be credited.

Sounds like a bundle of laughs.

Interestingly, Von Trier has for all intents and purposes abandoned Dogme now (the twat), but others such as Arnold have picked up the reins with some glee. Red Road is the first entry in the Advance Party trilogy, with Rounding up Donkeys having being released as part two to huge critical and commercial indifference last year. The list of ridiculous rules that these films have to follow is astonishing, and I can’t be bothered to go through it here, because this is a review not an academic exercise, but believe me, it’s pretentious. Lone Scherfig presented the characters to Arnold, who was then obliged to write a script around them, but adhering to the ludicrously strict rules. This is hard-core arthouse.

Jackie looking about as happy as she usually does in this film.

Red Road tells the story of Jackie. Jackie is a CCTV operator in Glasgow, and an intensely lonely and isolated figure. She finds out through the wire that Clyde has been released from gaol early on probation. Abusing her position somewhat, she begins to stalk him through the cameras, and then eventually in person before luring him into the sack (in an astonishingly graphic scene), and enacting her revenge. I won’t spoil the rest of the film, but fuck me sideways is this one depressing.

The acting here is first-rate. Katie Dickie puts in an emotionally raw performance as the deeply damaged Jackie. Her perfunctory early sex scene is depressing in its mundane nature, and her increasing mania is housed behind a steely and stoic façade. Tony Curran is excellent as Clyde, bringing an animal physicality and frightening coarseness to proceedings. We really believe that this man would be crass enough to tell a near stranger that he wants to know “How your cunt tastes like”. The rest of the characters in Red Road aren’t memorable particularly, being interchangeable chavs. Or Neds rather, as this is Glasgow. However, it doesn’t matter because this is a film essentially about the loneliness of observation. Jackie doesn’t exist in any meaningful way in front of the camera. She’s broken and her time isolated from actual company has made her increasingly unstable.

This is what passes for fun in tower blocks: standing next to an open window on the top floor.

This should also, believe me, be a deeply boring film. Nothing at all of any real interest happens for much of the run time. However, there’s a palpable atmosphere of dread that seeps off the screen; an air of foreboding and it is obvious to anyone that this can only end in tragedy. It’s also astonishingly creepy. There is no real doubt that Jackie is possibly psychotic and there is no real doubt that she’s in well over her head. That the film works so well on a slow burn is down to the super-tight direction: no shot is wasted and every single scene has meaning in the context of the film. This is a sparse, tense, brutal movie.

Clyde is a bad man. I preferred him when he was an Orangutan and went on road trips with Clint Eastwood's Bare Knuckle Boxer.

There’s no point me talking about the score, as obviously there isn’t one. There is a party where some chavs play Joy Division (aiming high on the cheery front), but that’s it. This is also true of the cinematography as Red Road doesn’t have anything in the way of lighting or clever shot composition. Rather the film is entirely shot through a hand-held (but non-jerky) camera, and this adds to the rawness and feeling of poverty that the movie emits.

I’m going to give this a high rating, because it is creepy and the revenge sequence is effective, not to mention that it is well acted etc. However there is one significant flaw to the film: Nothing happens for far too long. While the dread does build, in a similar slow-burn way to the superior Audition, the eventual pay-off doesn’t deliver the punch that we need it to. If anything, the finale of the film (the revenge takes place before this), is actually unsatisfying. I was left wanting some act of hideous violence, something to justify the time we’ve spent watching a crazy women operate a joystick (both of the rubber and penis variety).

Jackie trying to work out what rhymes with "Orange"

Overall, Red Road is a hugely ambitious film. It’s also a hugely overrated one. That isn’t to say that it isn’t very good, because it reeks of quality, but there is an absence to it, an imponderable something that elevates this kind of film above the herd. This is, actually, the same problem that I have with all the Dogme movies: they’re cold and lack heart. No amount of effort or flair can make up for this, and what Red Road is at the end of the day is a brilliantly composed, stunningly acted, well written, soulless academic exercise. I give it 3 CCTV Cameras on a shitty overcast sky out of 4 because it is exceptional, but as good as it is, and it is effective, I have no desire at all to see the rest of the trilogy, and that, I believe, says it all.

I’ll return to this series with something a bit cheerier once the Birthday Series finishes at the end of August, but I’m damned if I know what.

Until next time,


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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

113 responses to “Made in Britain: Red Road”

  1. Jarv says :


    That was difficult to review. Apologies if I’ve been boring. I was trying to be informative without patronising for the most part.

    • Jarv says :

      One correction though, the second film is merely called “Donkeys”.

      Doesn’t sound very cheery though. Jackie is back, but they’ve changed her significantly.

  2. Droid says :

    Yeeeeaaaaaah…. no thankyou very much. I would rather shoot myself than watch this movie. No doubt it’s got its qualities, but fucking hell… I’ve got better things to do with my time than watching a miserably depressing film set in Glasgow.

    Good review though.

  3. Droid says :

    That list sounds like the recipe for the most boring film ever made.

    How is murder a superficial action?

    • Jarv says :

      I’ve no idea. Note that Von Trier himself has abandoned it- Antichrist is in no way Dogme. Neither was Dancer in the Dark.

      Of them I’ve seen a few, and I don’t like them. I think Breaking the Waves is a Dogme film as well. That’s probably the best one. That or Festen.

      • Droid says :

        Dancer in the Dark is a musical. And since all the music isn’t done “in camera” it can’t be dogme.

      • Jarv says :

        Von Trier really is a fucking twat.

      • Droid says :

        DitD is a good movie. I think thats the only Von Trier movie I’ve seen.

        I just don’t see the value of purposefully stripping film down to nothing. Life is mostly boring and tedious. I watch films to be entertained. Not to be bored by tedium.

      • Jarv says :

        Me neither. I don’t get what they were doing, some kind of verisimilitude? The thing is, though, that the likes of Loach have been doing it for yonks (albeit due to budgetary concerns). The lighting thing in particular (and the props) is especially cuntish.

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah Von gave up after one movie The Idiots.

        I’ve seen Julien Donkey-Boy, that at least had some funny scenes of Verner Herzog yelling at his son to wrestle a fucking tin trash can.

      • Jarv says :

        BReaking the waves?

        How’s the new job?

      • koutchboom says :

        Its ok, my computers sort of fucking slow. Also I actually have work to do so I can’t just fuck off all day like before. I don’t think Breaking the Waves counted as Dogme just The Idiots, which I still want to see.

      • Jarv says :

        Surprising, that. It feels like Dogme and it’s from the right period.

        Congrats, by the way- are there less fuckheads there now?

  4. Xiphos0311 says :

    the 10 criteria that you laid out for a film to be Dogme cinema are 10 reasons way cocksuckers like Von Trier need to get the shit kicked out of them for being pretentious assholes. what a bunch self important cock heads.

    • Jarv says :

      Straight from Wikipedia, and it’s referenced properly so will be accurate. Von Trier really does need slapping.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        these fuckers are making movies which automatically means they aren’t important people but this douche bags sure as shit like to think they are. Fuck life’s to short to that much of an unhappy shit heel

      • Jarv says :

        That’s what gets me, I don’t understand why they’re that miserable. If I was making films for a living I’d be ecstatic.

        But no, I was redesigning transport routes on a website all day.

      • Droid says :

        It’s tortured artist douchebaggery is what it is.

      • Jarv says :

        It’s tortured artist douchebaggery prime cuntishness is what it is.

      • Jarv says :

        Anyway, are these films actually Art?

        Sure they try to be, but let’s pick on the idiots for a moment- it’s an alleged “comedy” that follows the Dogme rules about a group of arseholes that feign mental illness. This strikes me as a severe case of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

      • Droid says :

        No, they aren’t “art”. But the persons that make them are douchenozzle wannabe try hard artists. They see themselves as artists.

      • Jarv says :

        What the fuck is wrong with Von Trier.

        PS- Red Road is better than the pure Dogme films I’ve seen.

      • Droid says :

        If they want art, they should wait to see ‘Mega Drop Bear’, and ‘Raging Murphy’. Now there’s high art!

      • Jarv says :


        Hurry up and rob that $20m.

        You know, if I’d won that £170m on the weekend, I’d totally have financed us.

      • Droid says :

        Red Road is better than the pure Dogme films I’ve seen.

        Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

        “Red Road is better than a red hot poker up the pooper.”

      • Droid says :

        Me too. I’d have blown £100m on it. Easy come easy go.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        fuck these assholes and anybody in the movie business that think they are important or actually do anything of importance. If some mother fuckers want to throw tons of money at me to essentially do nothing where everybody kisses my ass and does everything for me, sign me up and I’ll be the most smiling motherfucker you’ve ever seen.

        fuck this is making me angry principally due to the pure arrogance and condescension of these useless pricks. fuck them and their pretentious horse shit . HEY VON TRIER YOU BULLSHIT ARTIST, Michael Bay is a better director then you, know why? bay at least made movies that are entertaining and he knows what he is. Bayhiem movies aren’t pretentious bullshit filled navel grazing misery reveling pieces of shit like your loose stool production*

        * doesn’t apply to Pearl Harbor which is as bad anything these pretentious tards shit out.

      • Spud McSpud says :

        I’m backing you there, Xi. There’s a laundry list of shit that’s wrong with the way Bay makes movies (everything ever released under platinum Dunes, for starters) but you know what? He’s fucking ENTERTAINING. Not always coherent, not always smart, not always able to avoid racist stereotyping, and seemingly unable to think of a woman as anything other than the ultimate visual object to Bayify onscreen, but I’d watch TRANSFORMERS 2 several times in a row before I’d EVER watch depressing shit like this.

        I go to the cinema, like many of you, to be entertained. The fact that I live not four miles out of a city centre – just far out enough to be in the middle of the chav estates and the industrial estate hellholes – means that the last thing I’d want to see at the cinema is a movie about shit I live a few miles away from. Quite what the rules of Dogme 95 are supposed to do for the medium – other than give the artwankers their own precious version of “keepin’ it real – I have no idea, but one thing it DOES do is give the term boring a new definition.

        I’d give FISH TANK a go (mainly because the Fass is in it). I enjoyed HARRY BROWN (if “enjoyed” is the right word). But this sounds like the pretentious artwankery it so obviously is, and for that reason, I’m gonna completely ignore it.

        I predict a distinct lack of laughs in this series, Jarv. Console yourself with a Stuart Gordon trifecta, a replay of BITCH SLAP, SOMETHING. You deserve it for sitting through grime like this…

  5. Droid says :

    As a protest against this type of pretentious douchebaggery I might do the Deep-le bill…

    Deep Rising and Deep Blue Sea.


  6. Continentalop says :

    I’m going to defend Von Trier about Dogme for moment: I think the entire movement was actually meant as a bizarre avant garde joke by him that other filmmakers didn’t get and started following zealously. I mean, the name Dogme/Dogma implies religiously following rules without even thinking about them. Von Trier got a bunch of dumb-shits who criticize how “mindless” commercial/modern movies are to take what he said as gospel and blindly obey pointless rules.

    Besides that though I think Lars is a fucking shitty filmmaker (accept for a couple early movies) and that Dogme is a fucking pointless film movement. This movie, Red Road, however, sounds like it has potential.

  7. Continentalop says :

    We really have to come up with the 10 Commandments of Changme ’11.

    1: You must always have nudity in your film, and they must be female and attractive.

    2: There should at least be one lesbian scene in a movie.

    3: Every ten minutes someone should be stabbed, shot, punched, killed or some other action/violence scene should take place.

    4: There must be at least one dwarf/midget per film.

    5: The lens cap MUST be off during filming.

  8. Xiphos0311 says :

    9. Casting of hot MILF actresses that do nudity is a must

  9. Xiphos0311 says :

    10. Proper weapon use and handling(personal pet peeve)

  10. Continentalop says :

    11: Cocaine, booze and hooker must be available to crew at all times

  11. Continentalop says :

    12: Don Murphy is a big, fat, moronic, talentless sack of shit, and his greasy, Doritos laced fingers will not be allowed to come near the movie.

  12. Xiphos0311 says :

    12. All shoots have to take occur in places with cool things to do like surfing, diving, snow boarding, hiking.

  13. Xiphos0311 says :

    15. There must be some sort of mention/depiction of a giant robot lion.

    • Jarv says :

      16) Under no circumstances shall any film feature women talking about their feelings. We don’t care. Unless, said feelings are of the lesbian nature, and the conversation lasts less than 60 seconds, and it is immediately followed by consumation. And nudity.

      • Jarv says :

        17. The following music is prohibited from the soundtrack: U2, Coldplay, Phil Collins, Duran Duran, The Smiths, any boy band, and many others that are too numerous to mention. There’s plenty of great music out there without flooding it with drek.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        18. because it can’t be stressed enough NO DUDITY.

      • Jarv says :

        19. Any and all pop culture references must have a timeless quality to them, and not be ludicrously anorak level obscure.

      • Jarv says :

        20. Following on from that- there shall be no hipster postmodernist ironic shite. Under any circumstances.

      • Droid says :

        23. No female character is allowed to express desire for anything but… 1. Killing whatever monster is featured in the film and 2. Her equally hot female co-star/s.

    • tombando says :

      The Giant Robot Lion(TM) must, MUST be CLEARLY shown, in graphic Detail, and NOT be written off as a hallucination on the part of ‘ROBBB—!!’ or any OTHER character in the movie.

      Harold’s friends must, must NOT be allowed to have ANYthing to do w/ said movie and it’s depiction of said, Giant, Robotic Lion. Harold ESP. and Eli Roth are to be kept far, FAR away. You may sic said Giant, Robotic Lion on them BOTH should they break said proviso.

  14. Xiphos0311 says :

    21. some sort of sword/bladed weapon has to be used. Preferably on a lawyer or politician.

    22. All period pieces will have aliens in them

  15. Droid says :

    You guys realise these rules pretty much describe an Overlord Bay movie?

  16. Continentalop says :

    23: 21: While no film techniques are prohibited, we ask the filmmakers to restrain from using overdone and tired techniques, such as excessive slow motion, bullet time, ramping of frame speed, shaky cam, or over exposure for flashbacks.

    • Continentalop says :

      Make this rule 24.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      in a biblical manner this would read “thou shalt lock down thy camera and not begat upon the screen the movie misdeeds of the past”

      • Continentalop says :

        “Woe onto him who slows thine frames down every scene pointlessly and excessively, or whom shakes thy camera until the audience is nauseous, for he will be stricken with great criticism and box office failure!”

  17. Droid says :

    25. The monster must be a practical effect unless otherwise impossible (like certain shots of Mega Drop Bear scaling the opera house in Sydney).

  18. Continentalop says :

    27, There will no gratuitous rape or torture in the film, and if used must pertain to the story or plot and be shot tastefully (or at least as “tastefully” as a movie with gunfire, stabbery, nudity, boobs, lesbians and midgets can have).

    As a guideline, if you think Mr. Beaks would leave the movie disappointed, than you did the right thing.

    • Droid says :

      No lingering voyueristic shots of rape. That can fuck right off.

      I can’t imagine rape ever appearing in one of our films though. Unless it’s Raging Murphy trying to rape the Randy’s Donuts sign.

    • tombando says :

      There will be no duplication of A Serbian Movie or that thing w/ the 20 minute rape scene that Beaks slobbered over. Severe beatings will commence should either film be used in any way shape or form as an ‘inspiration’ for the new movie.

  19. Continentalop says :

    28; NO 3-D!

  20. Col. Tigh-Fighter says :

    So no “Oh My God, Its A Giant Lion”, with added slo-mo dudity. In 3D?

    Then I shall just watch Shakespeare In Love again, damn you!

  21. Col. Tigh-Fighter says :

    Anyway, whats up with dudity? Shouldn’t brother Xi have seen more wang than me? According to those films I watch with army guys in fatigues in them, then it should be the case.

    Lots of towel slapping also goes on in war as well, I believe.

    • Continentalop says :

      How about a compromise. Dudity only when characters are in saunas and get in knife fights.

      The Eastern Promises Exception we can call it.

    • Jarv says :

      Ah yes, I do believe that top gun was on over the weekend.

      • Col. Tigh-Fighter says :

        You know he practices wheelies at sunset in between posting here.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        Top Gun is Navy through and through so it’s expected.

      • Spud McSpud says :

        Damned if I know whether this is true or not, but I read somewhere that Miramar air base doesn’t even HAVE a shower room.

        Which makes TOP GUN all the fruitier. Still enjoyed it the other night, though. “Take me on your Mighty Wings TONIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!!”

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      I haven’t had to shower with other dudes since Boot camp. If that means I have seen more wang then you since then I would say it’s time to up your game son. Playas gotta play yo, don’t have no shame in your game!

      Seeing as I am all about the compromise I suggest this. No dudity is allowed by fatties and uggos and definitely none by Jason Segal I’ve seen that dudes meat whistles one too many times. Deal?

  22. Col. Tigh-Fighter says :

    Haha, deal.

  23. tombando says :

    Jude Law is not to be cast for any reason whatsoever.

    • Droid says :

      There is a sub-clause to that rule. It’s the Our Nic rule. Loathesome actors can be cast if they are brutally dispatched in the opening scene/s. For example, Nicole Kidman is going to be chomped in the pre-credits scene of Mega Drop Bear. It’s cathartic.

  24. Col. Tigh-Fighter says :

    Ok, movie post….. Watched recently….

    The Adjustment Bureau . Surprisingly good. Nice ideas and well carried out. More of a sci-fi love story than a cg Bayfest. Good acting, and nice to see more Anthony Mackie, who owned The Hurt Locker. 8/10

    Super 8. Wow, totally channelling 80’s Speilberg, and mainly succeeding. rather nice done, I thought. 7/10

    Transformers 3. Ok. yes its the best. But what the fuck does that mean? What a stupid script, and what stupid wooden acting. That poor girl is just a cliché in it. Yes it looks great, but so does lots of shit. I just can’t cope with this lowest, common denominator type writing. WE DON’T HAVE TO BE THIS DUMB! COOL FILM MAKING IS ALLOWED TO HAVE SOME BRAINS OR HEART SOMETIMES!!!!!!!!!!!

    And rewatching Stargate SG1 for some reason, after having a weird urge to watch the 1994 film. Its all strangely watchable while I’m not working everyday….

    • Col. Tigh-Fighter says :

      And 5/10 for the cunt Bay. There is some astounding film making craft on display in the film. FX, stunts, and just the logistics of pulling off that type of monster. Its amazing stuff!

      Thats why the lazy fucking script, and purile choices by him grate so much!

      • tombando says :

        I actually enjoyed the Giant Robots Hitting Each Other(TM Bayhem despite itself, though the total waste of Malkovich etc was kinda sad, sure. But remember-he was in Con Air, Reds, etc, so there ya go. He’s gotten to the Deniro/Pacino Anything For a Buck(TM) phase of his career *COUGH* rockyandbullwinkle*cough*88 Minutes*-quite sad you know.

        Now for the next and maybe last two of the summer for me–Captain America(Who blew the landing by 26 miles) and Cowboys vs. Aliens. Those two look promising.

        Even w/out any (obvious) signs of Giant, Robot, Lions.

    • Droid says :

      TAB is okay. It’s empty fluff. That’s not necessarily bad. But it’s not a movie that I will bother watching again. Mackie was kind of wasted. I don’t think the adjusters were used well enough. It touched on really intriguing ideas but seemed to pull back from them and focus entirely on the romance story. Which worked quite well admittedly. A lot of credit to Blunt for that. And the end was deus ex machina personified. A sunday afternoon forgettable diversion. I’d give it… 2 1/2 changs.

      • Droid says :

        Also, Damon is apparently mounting a challenge to current title holder The Cruiser as the Hollywood go to guy for short guys running real fast.

    • tombando says :

      Adjustment Bureau was—okay, had an interesting premise that didn’t quite go where I thought it was gonna. Blunt was worth the price of admission. Don’t honestly need to watch this again however.

      Big Robots Hitting Each Other III> Adjustment Bureau. Search your feelings.

  25. ThereWolf says :

    I’m not a fan of the genre, probably won’t be visiting this one. Although I will give a Shane Meadows film the time of day.

    Nevertheless, a good review.

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