Amber Films’ LIKE FATHER [6/10]
The latest from Newcastle’s long-established Amber collective can be taken as a kind of anti-Billy Elliot : we’re in almost exactly the same locations, and there’s again a heavy political angle to the story, but Like Father is in many ways more accurate, more truthful and more original, even if it is, by nature of the budget, much rougher around the edges. Once again, a young lad is crucial to the story and he’s even called Elliott — but the spelling isn’t the only difference. While 10-year-old Michael (Dent) has plenty of screen time, he’s more a passive observer of the main story, the conflict between his father Joe (Armstrong) and grandfather Arthur (Kelly).
Music-teacher Joe is commissioned to write an anthem for a regeneration project that’s intended to propel his area the – East Durham ex-coalfield – from its deprived post-industrial past into a bright future of tourism and service industries. But the project, and thus the commission, run into opposition when Arthur and his pigeon-racing colleagues refuse to relocate, and it’s up to Joe to change his curmudgeonly father’s mind.
Like Father is strong on capturing the atmosphere of the region and its sub-cultures of pigeon lofts and working-mens’ clubs, and showcases the considerable talents of Armstrong, an engaging actor and a talented singer and composer. But his efforts sit uncomfortably within the melodramatic plot structure, and the production team undo much of their good work with their heavy-handed symbolism and their general determination to over-emphasise, and thus weaken, every point they make.
by Jigsaw Lounge Reviewing Team (L.Boyce, M.Cummings, E.Dennison, A.Maxwell, D.Moran, R.Worthington, N.Young)
1st July, 2001
(seen 27-jun-01, Robins cinema, Durham)
director / script / cinematography / editing : Amber Production Team
(Richard Grassick, Ellin Hare, Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, Murray Martin, Pat McCarthy, Lorna Powell, Peter Roberts)
music : Joe Armstrong
lead actors : Joe Armstrong, Jonathon Dent, Ned Kelly, Anna Gascoigne
click here for full 1000-word review of Like Father
or here for an article on Amber called A Failure of Vision