|Awaydays - Gang lead by Stephen Graham|
If you’re looking for a hooligan film with a difference, Awaydays is surely that, though the difference may be too much if it is a strictly 'hooligan' film you‘re looking for. That aspect of Awaydays is more a tough front on a story about unreciprocated homosexual love, a young man’s search for acceptance, and how cool the Adidas range looked in the late 70’s.
The film opens on Carty (Nicky Bell) a middle-class art school dropout paying his respects to his recently deceased mother, and follows him as he goes to watch Tranmere away games. Here he idolises the Tranmere hooligan firm known as The Pack, a group of young men with wedge haircuts, tight jeans, green anoraks and Adidas trainers. They are lead by an almost “token” older man (Stephen Graham, last seen in This is England) who sports a camel coat and the only moustache.
A chance meeting with one of The Pack, Elvis (Liam Boyle), at a music night gives Carty his way in. Elvis takes to Carty; envious of his chance in life, interested in his art school connections, and a keen admirer of his strong jaw-line. Elvis craves an escape from his working-class life and the chance to unleash his artistic side, and frequent not-so-subtle hints at his homosexual feelings for Carty, add up to a confused young man battling heroin addiction. The contrast of these two lead characters makes for an interesting, if a little predictable, coming-of-age story. Played out against the backdrop of late 70’s football violence, Awaydays uses washed-out shots and Joy Division to succeed in capturing the “it’s grim up North” mood at the beginning of Thatcher’s reign.
|Awaydays - Featuring lots of Adidas!|
The film is adapted from the novel of the same name by the author Kevin Sampson, who was apparently part of this “Football Casuals” movement as a young man, and the bias really shows. Over the course of the film the rabble of sappy, slightly camp-looking youths do battle with several larger firms of larger proper-blokes, and enjoy a resounding victory each time! Perhaps the Stanley knives the other firms haven’t twigged on to use, give The Pack an advantage.
Overly stated gestures of camaraderie, bellowed sentences sprinkled with an array of profanities, and playing up the escapades of inebriated youths, show actors still finding their feet in the trade. Though Nicky Bell and Liam Boyle do show their potential in the lead roles, they would do well to learn from Stephen Graham who does what is asked of him to his usual high standard.
The numerous slow-motion shots of young men uniformly clad in their Adidas gear, and close-ups of trainers, become a little irritating after the first one. In fact at times you may feel you are watching an elaborate marketing ploy by Adidas (who I aren’t surprised to hear are rumoured to be launching a range of Awaydays-themed shoes and clothing in the near future). The soundtrack? Joy Division, Ultravox, The Cure, The Jam, Human League, Echo & The Bunnymen…I’m tempted to shrug and remain unimpressed, but these days I risk being lynched for saying this whole melancholy genre is becoming overused. Yeah, it’s quite good, though considering recent trends could be considered a desperate flailing lunge for the bandwagon.
Despite the emphasis on fashion and music appearing to overshadow the storyline, it is precisely this emphasis combined with some excellent camerawork that makes the film nostalgic and visually interesting. However, there is no escaping the fact that Awaydays is very much a “style over substance” film.
Awaydays showed at the Broadway Cinema until Thursday 4 June 2009.