Five Pillars (Cert 15)
1 Disc DVD/Amazon VOD (Distributor: Eye Films) Running Time: 86 minutes approx.
The phrase “low budget indie film” tends to conjure up thoughts of something quirky, possibly experimental but very much outside of the mainstream in terms of subject matter and presentation. Rarely do you find a film that fits into this category that actually chooses to address salient issues affecting modern society, making Five Pillars stand out from the onset.
Former educator turned filmmaker Jon Rosling has tapped into the same vein of fraught social drama that shapes the works of Shane Meadows, with This Is England being an easily identifiable influence (one of the cast was in Meadows’s film too). But don’t mistake Rosling’s film as a clone or homage, he has plenty to say in his own right.
Set in Yorkshire, Darren (Tom Bott) has recently been discharged from the army, clearly distraught from his experiences. As he returns to civilian life Darren finds the situation among his close knit circle of friends has changed in his absence – His ex-girlfriend Sophie (Rachel Lucy) refuses to speak to him, his mate Paul (Adam Probets) is away at university whilst another, Gary (Aaron Jeffcoate), has become an angry racist.
Meanwhile Sophie has discovered she is pregnant after a one-night stand and now has to decide what to do. When Darren spies Sophie chatting with an Asian chap Yusef (Sameer Butt), he jumps to the conclusion that they are a couple. Egged on by Gary and Paul’s younger brother Billy (Charlie Glossop) Darren’s simmering confusion eventually boils over into revenge.
On the surface one might assume Rosling is addressing Islamophobia, notwithstanding the film being bookended by clips from 9/11, but this is far from true, the issue of the Asian characters being just a small part of the overall story. In truth this is about society in general with the connecting theme being that all of the affected are from within one small group, and the pressures of each overlap into one huge mess.
With Darren struggling to readjust to post-army life, he turns to his estranged grandfather Graham (Mike Kremastoules) since he has no-one else to talk to. Graham is very much old school, mocking his grandson for being too soft for the army and the modern generation for their mod con lifestyles but his own past is not exactly anything to be proud of either.
Elsewhere Gary has a chip on his shoulder towards the system, exacerbated through the problems of his depressed alcoholic father Robert (George Newton aka Banjo from This Is England). Gary takes his father to the Job Centre to help him apply for benefits where advisor Ruth (Mhairi Calvey) dismisses Robert as another leech and effectively tells him to get a job.
This enrages Gary, as Ruth is the wife of an old friend of his David (Rick Bithell) who has left his estate days, and his old friends, behind for a comfortable middle classed life, yet is happy to call Gary to fix his car on the cheap. Needless to say this is another friendship which doesn’t look like it will last the course.
Much like the characters, Rosling’s script is slow boiling affair that piles on the misery until something eventually gives, but where he plays it smart is in not making it too obvious who is going to snap first. Each issue is given equal weight in terms of set up so it is just a matter of time before the moment of truth arrives, but even then there are still a few more surprises in store.
The script has been in development since 2009 and has undergone many changes from its origins as a series of monologues under the title In England to this 86 minute feature film. The revised title Five Pillars refers to the Five Pillars of Islam but in this case, Rosling is using this as a template to explore current integrated British society and ponders what the Five Pillars would be for Britain.
Don’t mistake this for Rosling being in anyway didactic in his musings, the very essence of this film is to explore how potential pillars, such as tolerance, identity and community, affect our society in everyday life. Any idea that racism and Islamophobia is justified or glorified here can be dispelled very easily, as is the notion that violence is an answer to all problems.
Each situation is a reaction to an external influence or experience and while individually they could be helped, this film deftly explores the consequences of this issues being compounded and incubated towards a tragic conclusion in combustible surroundings. Without spoiling anything there is no happy ending here but we are left with the stark reality that an “it can’t happen here” attitude is naïve at best.
Befitting the film’s humble indie status the cast will be mostly unknown to mainstream audiences, aside from George Newton who demonstrates he is more than a menacing biker thug as the tragic Robert. For most of the actors this is their first feature film or major role and they acquit themselves very well, their every day looks making the characters so much more credible and realistic.
It feels unfair to single people out but a few deserve a special mention. Tom Bott is superb as the tortured Darren, a man always on edge who just needs a hug and a friendly ear, as is Aaron Jeffcoate as Gary, the simmering totem of working class anger. Newcomer Charlie Glossop makes an impressive debut as the impressionable Billy while Mhairi Calvey (who appeared in Braveheart as a child) as Ruth has the makings of a cool screen vamp/villainess.
Despite the low budget and occasional rough around the edges production values the overall presentation of Five Pillars is very professional and well shot. If one can get past the Indie stigma they will find a relevant, provocative and incisive British social drama with heart and soul.
Reflections on Five Pillars
Photo Slide Show
2 Promotional Video Spots
Rating – ***
Man In Black
To learn more about this film or to buy/watch it please visit the official website at: http://www.fivepillarsmovie.co.uk/