| The Red Right Hand
Alexander Nathan Etel
Lewis Owen McGibbon
Danny Boyle. Most people won't know who Danny Boyle is but maybe you'll have heard of one or two of his previous offerings; namely Trainspotting and The Beach. Not to mention the sensational 28 Days Later - which I feel helped reinvent the zombie/horror genre. His new offering has been taken down a notch, considering that Trainspotting was centred on the Scottish drug problem, The Beach on violence in paradise and 28 Days Later's zombie arm-chomping carnage. The film opens with the line, "The French have said au revoir to the Franc, the Germans have said auf wiedersehen to the Mark, and the Portugese have said... whatever to their thing," narrated by a little 7 year old boy, Damian [Etel]. That's right, this film is about money - more importantly British Pound Sterling. Just to let you all know, we (the population of the United Kingdom of...er... the Windsors... and.. Germany) have no current intention to convert to the Euro, at least not yet. However, this film focuses on two plot-furthering-points;
1. The £ is being replaced by the end of the year
2. A big bag of used notes.
Having just moved into their new home, Damian goes off exploring his surroundings, and like most boys of that age, marks his territory by building a fort. Built out of cardboard boxes, it's essentially a long tunnel leading to a cave-like opening with small windows looking out as the trains pass by. There's a fantastic sequence where Damian is nestled inside his stronghold, which becomes divided into 4-5 pop-up-shot screens, all depicting the effect the trains are having on his crudely constructed citadel. At that point Damian is 'visited' by St. Clare [Kathryn Pogson] - this may sound odd, but it's worth mentioning. Just as his conversation with the saint comes to an apex another train passes by, followed by a bouncing black object, heading straight for the card-construction. As the bag hits, it tears through the roof, leaving Damian covered in old TV boxes, calling out for his Dad. The camera then pulls back to reveal Damian struggling out and surveying the damage, finding the object that caused it all, a black nike bag full of used pound notes.
The first person he tells is his smart, if not devious, older brother, Anthony [McGibbon]. Anthony explains to his brother that he can't tell anyone about this, not even their Father, when asked why he simply says, 'Tax. If you tell anyone about this the government will take 40%. Do you know how much that is? It's nearly all of it.' What follows is an ethical journey for Damian, how do you spend money in order to help those in need of it? At first he decides to ask people if they're poor, on answering yes he would make large anonymous donations - firstly by taking a dozen Big Issue sellers to pizza hut for a slap-up meal, then filling the mormon's letterbox with cash and finally giving £1000 to a lady giving a talk at his school, Dorothy [Donovan]. Anthony would much prefer to keep the money for themselves and starts to form an elite clique at his new school - escorted daily by a team of bodyguards (basically his school mates) hidden by sunglasses and stern looks.
Suddenly the two boys are faced with two rather troubling problems. One is the fact that the national currency is changing and they somehow need to convert all their money before it becomes useless, the second is a shady-looking stranger [Christopher Fulford] that was lurking by the railway tracks, asking questions about money. Damian initially assumes he's another poor man and sets off to tell his brother, in order to aid the man. Through one of the kids at school, it comes to the boy's attention that the money was stolen from a train set to burn all the used notes, that the bag they found was one of many that had been thrown from a moving train, to be picked up at a later date once the police had stopped looking for them.
Damian is now facing another moral crisis, is it possible to do good with stolen goods? Throughout the film, Damian has been seeing and talking to saints, asking them questions about how best to use the money and if they had heard of a St. Maureen. At one point he's sitting in his room donating money to several different charities, when St. Peter [Alun Armstrong] walks in advising him not to tick the boxes at the bottom or he'll be besieged with charity representatives. After their little talk Peter tells him to keep hold of the key to his old house, that it's an exceptionally well made one and that he should know - being the patron saint of locks & keys.
During the school nativity play, Damian is confronted yet again by 'The Man' and runs away. In the end Damian has to tell his father [Nesbitt] about the money. After seeing the devastation of what's been done to their house they plan to spend and convert as much of the money as possible without causing suspicion or raising any alarms. I won't say the rest because it is great just to watch the film unfold but it does involve more moral dilemmas for the young boys and some classic humorous moments... and of course, more visits from saints.
Unlike most of Boyle's other films this one is a positive and heart-warming film about family and doing what's right. It's due for a June release but there is talk of brining it forward, this all remains to be seen. With the grim line-up of Hollywood summer blockbusters (supposedly designed for kids and family) wrought with innuendo and American connotations that most people won't get outside of the states, this film offers something that's truly exceptional and endearing.
10 June 2005
The Scene To Look Out For:
Anthony drags Damian to the khazi and begins to explain why he can't just go handing out money to everyone. One of their school friend's father works for the police and he begins to explain how a train was robbed of millions of pounds cash, that was scheduled to be destroyed. It starts off innocently with the little boy sitting on the floor surrounded by toys, over-embellishing the scene, but this becomes dominated by the actual occurrence of the robbery. The way it's filmed and told, even the heist itself is pretty clever and well done and to top it all off it ends with Damian steadfast, saying, "God does not rob banks!"
It's actually quite difficult. I really want to say Damian due to the fact that Etel's performance is breathtaking and quite shocking for a boy of his age. Having said that, the character that got the most laughs from me was the community policeman [Pearce Quigley]. Everything he said was hilarious and spot-on to how a small, quiet neighbourhood rozzer tends to act.
"Statistically, with it being Christmas and all, one of you is going to get burgled. Probably next week... maybe the next"
In A Few Words:
"Masterful storytelling with bursts of visual magic"