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  London to Brighton The Runaways
Year: 2006
Director: Paul Andrew Williams
Stars: Lorraine Stanley, Georgia Groome, Johnny Harris, Nathan Constance, Sam Spruell, Alexander Morton, David Keeling, Jamie Kenna, Chloe Bale, Claudie Blakley, Tim Matthews, Louise Appel
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Something terrible happened tonight, and Kelly (Lorraine Stanley) bundles eleven-year-old Joanne (Georgia Broome) into this rundown London public toilet and tells her to stay where she is while she goes to get some money. Kelly, her eye swollen, does this through prostitution because that's the way she makes her living, but she knows she needs to get out of the capital and do it fast - soon there will be violent men on their trail who will not be best pleased that a client of hers has been murdered...

After a few well-received short films, writer and director Paul Andrew Williams graduated to features with this gritty thriller with a strong dose of social commentary added. His concern here were the females exploited by men in the sex industry, as runaway Joanne has been recruited by Kelly for a criminal act; by all rights this should make us despise the woman, but Williams made sure we were aware that we should save that for the pimps and johns who put them in this position. After all, Kelly would not exactly be treated well by her pimp Derek (Johnny Harris) if she decided to go against him.

So the social realism informed the more traditional suspense plotting, to impressive effect. This was still rough and ready in its depiction, but that made it more authentic, rendering the story more relevant when you knew that all too many people were in this difficult situation who did not see things turn out the way they did for Joanne here. There's a sense that someone - a lot of someones, actually - should stand up and say "Stop" to all those who would allow their sexual desires to victimise and abuse those who did not need that kind of unwanted attention at all, and Williams had that lesson for them here.

As the title suggests, Kelly and Joanne, realising that they cannot hang around in London, take the train to Brighton, but the son (Sam Spruell) of the rich pervert who had demanded Derek get the girl for his own use wishes him to track them down, presumably so he can have his revenge. Derek is a curious character, mean-minded and domineering with his girls, manipulating them into doing his bidding, yet actually quite pathetic when faced with bigger sharks than he is, such as when he meets with the son and is told in no uncertain terms that he has to make amends. Meanwhile, the woman and the girl are seeking refuge with a friend of Kelly's while they ponder their next move.

But the mobile phone gives them away, a slighly contrived method of bringing the characters to a final confrontation which nevertheless is the sort of thriller convention that Williams got away with thanks to his dedication to keeping this as convincing as possible, and the cast who step up to do the material justice. Only at the end do things stretch credibility, but they had to wrap things up somehow, and it all ties in with the message that to bring to book a sex industry which would make victims out of people who have had more than enough grief in their lives someone has to take the moral high ground, although the manner in which this occurs is a bit too Brit gangster movie cliché for its own good, even if it did mark an unexpected development in one of the last scenes. Still Williams is clear-eyed enough to recognise that one person saved from this is a drop in the ocean, but didn't belabour his lesson: this was still a solid thriller and a marvel on a low budget. Music by Laura Rossi.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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