Monday, 30 September 2013

SUS (2010)

Sus was on the TV again last night. I'd seen it before, but it's a film I like so I thought I'd watch it again, staying up til gone 1am for the privilege. I'm glad I did.

Sus is a savage, harrowing and occasionally blackly comic polemic from The Long Good Friday scriptwriter Barrie O'Keefe regarding the controversial Sus laws. 

The play was written in the year it is set, 1979, a lost Play For Today that details, on the night Maggie Thatcher was swept into office, one young black man's wrongful arrest and interrogation regarding the death of his wife by two coppers who would give Jack Regan and Gene Hunt nightmares; a case of psychological bad cop/bad cop.

In 2010 this film version was mounted to chime with O'Keefe's fears for  the country in light of another newly installed Tory government. One would hope that the horrors of Sus -  so strikingly depicted in the film here - are a thing of the past, but the resonances are still here; the law has been repealed but in the post 9/11 landscape, anti-terrorism laws allow suspects to be detained on similar flimsy evidence, and as the closing caption of the film states, a young black male is seven times more likely to be stopped on this law than anyone else. 

The film, like most theatrical adaptations, never loses its stage trappings but the setting is so claustrophobic that it actually benefits the piece.  A tense and engrossing three hander between Clint Dyer, Ralph Brown and Rafe Spall, it is fantastically acted with perhaps Dyer and Brown getting the best parts, with Spall - good as he is - playing the sniggering muscle. Dyer is especially effective and utterly empathic as the hapless wronged man, Delroy; abused, threatened and harassed by the standard policing methods of the two bullying detectives, all because of the colour of his skin - of 'looking suspicious'. As a viewer, one gets a real sense of nightmarish claustrophobia and what it is like to be in his shoes. Meanwhile, Brown - in the flesh, one of the most easygoing and approachable actors I've ever known  - is part Alf Garnett, part sadistic cruel monster as the senior copper Karn; the irony being this is a man whose surname suggests he is equally not from Anglo Saxon stock, and who openly admits to enjoying travelling to abroad with his wife and learning languages like French and Spanish to converse with locals whilst there.  The scene  where he discusses archaic laws and history to the increasingly bemused and terrified Dyer, all captured by carousel camerawork around the interview table, is especially terrifying, involving and brilliantly delivered.

Throughout the film we are reminded of the night the action takes place, the Conservative victory in the 1979 elections. It forms a prop to hang the film on, the attitudes of the ruling government to come allowing Brown and Spall et al a free pass for their institionalised racism, ignorance, intimidation and thuggery. Between the brief voice overs of Thatcher, you can almost hear the SPG rolling up on the horizon. Dark times ahead indeed.

Student Body

1968. Vicky Brago-Mitchell, a Stanford University student by day and, under the stage name Vicky Drake, a topless dancer by night. Vicky ran for student body president with this image of her outside Stanford Mausoleum as her campaign poster. It featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, newspapers worldwide and perhaps most famously in Playboy (reprinted again three years later in their Youth Culture special edition) but ultimately, Vicky lost and was not elected.

Out On Blue Six : Outfit

End Transmission


Sunday, 29 September 2013

There Is (Still) Power In A Union

Great news this week as the Bakery and Food Allied Workers Union (one of the smallest unions) has won its dispute at Premier Foods aka Hovis in Wigan. 

The management had attempted to bring in zero hour contracts, that hellish slavery that approx 5 million workers are already currently enduring, to push down wages for the staff and increase uncertainty in contracts. Two weeks of strike action followed, with mass daily pickets. A third week was ultimately averted as a deal has been agreed between union and management. The agreement, signed this week, promises to pay any agency employee who works 39 hour weeks for 12 consecutive weeks the same rate of pay as full time employees. It also pledges to use overtime and banked hours for existing staff for any temporary shortages in labour.

Pauline Nazir, BFAWU regional sec, said; "The sense of solidarity among the workers has been absolutely brilliant. It makes you see why you're a member of a trade union and why our parents told us to join a union" Whilst regional organiser Geoff Atkinson said "We believe we got everything we wanted. It's a massive victory for us. We are a small union and we took on a company. It should encourage other people. We've proved that if you stick together, you can do away with unscrupulous contracts. We won't stand for our members being replaced by agency labour"

The perfect excuse to play this...

Girls With Guns

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Out On Blue Six : Suzanne Vega

End Transmission

Theme Time : Thomas Newman - The Newsroom

The Newsroom is currently my favourite US drama from HBO. I loved the first season last year and am currently enjoying the second season (we're about 4 episodes in) on Sky Atlantic, Monday nights.

Starring Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, Alison Pill, Olivia Munn, Dev Patel, John Gallagher Jr, Thomas Sadoski and Sam Waterston and created by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing and the film Moneyball) each episode is frank, intelligent, witty - with great sharp and fast ping pong dialogue - and beautiful.

The splendid theme tune by Thomas Newman embodies the integrity of the characters and their mission to report world events accurately and without prejudice. The score was changed slightly in this second season, to become more urgent and rapid, as indeed we're the titles. Here is a video featuring both the S1 and S2 opening

Out On Blue Six : Buzzcocks

End Transmission

Friday, 27 September 2013

Welcome To Sarajevo (1997)

Reaching your teens is probably the time you start to become more globally aware, more politicised and more aware of the tragedies, injustices and the shitty end of the stick.  It was certainly that way for me was as a young teen in the early 90s when, perhaps the biggest wake up call for any youth to experience at that time, occurred; the Bosnian/Serbian conflict. This was a window to hell that lasted just over three years, it brought to the world terms like ethnic cleansing and the harsh reality of just what that means; torture, mass murder and war crimes, it all spewed forth into the living rooms of the UK and to my impressionable eyes thanks, in no small part, to ITN coverage from reporter Michael Nicholson.

Welcome To Sarajevo is based on Natasha’s Story by Nicholson himself. The book details his reporting of the war, his discovery of an orphanage with some 200 children existing precariously on the front line enduring shelling which had saw four dead already. Ultimately, Nicholson went from observing and commenting on the war to actively doing something heroic to make a change. Suspending his impartiality he pleaded to the authorities to evacuate the children only for his campaign to fall on deaf ears (''Evacuation is actually collaboration'' as one UN official puts it in the film ) As a result, Nicholson smuggled nine year old Natasha out of the country, claiming her as his daughter. Upon reaching Heathrow, he handed her over to immigration and, despite protest from Bosnian authorities, succeeded in adopting her, taking her into his already existing family and giving her a life in England. In the modern world where TV news coverage of wars occurring just a few hours on a plane, can leave viewers feeling disassociated and alienated, as if the events we witness are from another planet or somehow not real, this was an act that bridged the divide and hit home, capturing a nation's conscience and admiration.

The real Nicholson with Natasha, some years after her adoption

The film directed by Michael Winterbottom touched me just as deeply when it was released in 1997, however it is a loosely adapted version by Frank Cottrell Boyce of Nicholson and Natasha's story that takes some natural liberties  - I seem to recall the then in his 50s Nicholson professing Stephen Dillane who plays 'Michael Henderson' was far more attractive then he ever was and at 40, younger. 

Stephen Dillane as Michael Henderson, Nicholson in all but name

Winterbottom handles the story with great conviction, brutal realism and stylistic aplomb. Dropping in actual news footage between the 'fiction' showing the genuine after effects of shelling and mortar attacks may make for harrowing images, but it's purpose is valid in reminding you that this conflict was real.  That these things happened. Equally, the film is rightly powerful and steeped in authenticity for being filmed in the city itself, using real ruins and debris, with filming taking place just a few months after the war had ceased.  His use of soundtrack is very good too, placing hits of the day in amongst the action; the sight of  Goran Visnjic, running through the trenches of the battered and war torn city with water supplies to the sound of the Stones Roses 'I Wanna Be Adored' is a sequence that has remained with me for some time and no doubt will continue to do so, as indeed is the real footage scenes of  the leaders of The West claiming they can do nothing to truly help, interspersed with images from the siege of Sarajevo that cry out for help from surely even the coldest of hearts is  accompanied with much irony  Bobby McFerrin's 'Don't Worry Be Happy'

'I Wanna Be Adored'

Welcome To Sarajevo equally benefits from a cast who clearly were all on the same page and wanted to do justice to the project. No actor seems out of place, not even the Americans as cannily Winterbottom specifically casts a starry Woody Harrelson as the starry US war correspondent, Flynn. It never feels like stunt casting or something to appeal to the US audiences - though this US poster below does place emphasis on him with centre image and central billing

Stephen Dillane is brilliant, with a clear honest integrity and quiet determination at the film's core to the extent I'm still baffled as to why, even now, he's not a household name. He's ably assisted by Kerry Fox, James Nesbitt, Emily Lloyd and Goran Visnjic as his producer, cameraman, fellow reporter and driver respectively and by Marisa Tomei as an aid worker and Juliet Aubrey as his wife at home, but praise to must be given to Emira Nusevic, the local child actress in her only film, who plays Emira, the character inspired by Natasha. It's a performance that is unhindered by sentimentality thanks to Winterbottom's assured handling and belief in his audience finding their own emotive response to what he places on screen. In short this isn't some mawkish Hollywood mistreatment of the atrocity that manipulatively tugs at your heart strings. 

Emira, the film's Natasha

Welcome To Sarajevo is an important film that stands shoulder to shoulder with The Killing Fields in its depiction of horrendous 20th century conflicts through the eyes of the western world's journalists.  With the after effects of this war still ongoing; mass murderers like Ratko Mladić only being extradited to The Hague two years ago with his trial commencing last year,  and still appearing in the news only this week - with both Bosnia and Serbia finally making huge steps in terms of collaborating to get the staggering number of war crimes prosecuted correctly - this is still a film with something to say, and a message that hopes we will never have endure or witness such horror again.

Trying to make sense of the insensible

Tonight's TV Tips

Just a note to remind you all to check out the TV tonight.

At 9pm on Channel 4, the stars of The IT Crowd reunite for one final hour long episode. The sitcom has been one of the freshest funniest shows on 4 in recent years and it's a shame to see it end, but great to see it is getting a good send off.

Whilst over on BBC2 at ten past midnight, they're screening one of my all time favourite films, the utterly chilling 10 Rillington Place based on the true story of serial killer John Christie. Featuring a terrific turn from Richard Attenborough, it is one of the finest serial killer biopics, one of the best British films of the 1970s and one of the best atmospheric British films full stop.

Who's Who (1979)

Who's Who is the last full length film I've set aside to watch on the Mike Leigh at the BBC DVD box set I've been working my way though, and it's a bit of a detour for Leigh. Spurred on by a request to tackle the upper middles classes rather than mine his usual working class/middle class field, Leigh crafted a film that is essentially of two halves focusing on three sets of characters; some embryonic yuppies, the genuine titled city gentry and a low class dreamer  - you see, he couldn't resist including his usual class tropes. And thank God he did because there's quite a comedic gold mine in that dreamer, his central character Alan. He's a boring wheedling snob who chooses to live his life vicariously through the upper classes; obsessively writing off for autographs from the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Russell Harty (and even keeping, in frames, the rejection letters he has received from numerous members of the Royal family) and sucking up to his high born superiors at work.  He actually reminds me of a commissionaire I used to know who did exactly the same, had the same delusions of grandeur and even had the same little moustache! The scenes of his homelife, a frustrated existence with his cat breeding wife April (the several cats who litter the tiny terraced house are clearly child substitutes) each vying to flaunt their mutual obsessions to one another and anyone unfortunate enough to drop by, are brilliant examples of the kind of painful comedy of embarrassment that Leigh was experimenting with a good 20 years before that other exponent Ricky Gervais. They are splendidly played by Richard Kane (who wrote off to these people for real, in character, the results of which are shown in the film) and Joolia Cappleman - both managing that fine line between grotesques and a sympathetic 3D character study of two people you wouldn't want to be stuck in a lift with. 

That's not to say Leigh fails in depicting the upper middle classes as such, just that the attempts at satire don't really sit as well in the film.  His brief look at Alan's boss advising David Neville's young Lord Crouchurst on his mother's gambling debts make for amusing enough but ultimately basic satire albeit with convincing enough characters on display. There's also a canny accurate depiction of 'Sloane Rangers' (played by a young Simon Chandler, Adam Norton, Graham Seed, Catherine Hall and Felicity Dean) at an 'informal' dinner party that, due to time constraints, was actually improvised in front of the camera, which works really well as a social dissection of that group of well to do, well educated but ultimately dense and boorish people who appeared in the late 70s/early 80s. Who's Who has been criticised for being too broad, but I think that's unfair, as the characters on display here are depicted well enough - Dean clearly just wants to look nice and is inoffensive and thereby doomed to be used, Hall is by Sloaney standards a punk, desperately trying to shock or stand out from her peers but equally doomed to remain trapped, whilst Chandler gives a brilliantly vulnerable anally retentive turn which is an interesting counterpoint to his affable, clumsy and unintentionally irritating housemate played by Norton.  It's only Seed who is beyond help; a sleazy snotty nosed type with form for feeling up the clerical assistants at the firm he works at with Alan. But where Who's Who fails is in Leigh not fully integrating them into the world of the film and as such they remain a tantalising missed opportunity. Any other writer/director or 'devisor' as Leigh would have it at the time, would probably go down the route of having both worlds collide, ingratiating Alan with the Sloanes at the dinner party. But Leigh clearly felt that too pat or obvious. So why then did he chose to explore the same social comedy by lifting another upper class type played by Geraldine James and dropping her into Alan and April's home with the rather unlikely conceit of her buying a cat from them because Harrods had let her down? It's very amusing watching him fawn over her but it rings about as true as it would have been to see him do exactly the same at the dinner party. That said, if Leigh had taken that more obvious route, he would have missed out on giving Alan, once Geraldine James makes good her escape, a captive audience in Sam Kelly's hapless Mr Shakespeare; a man who had come round to photograph April's cats and whom Alan previously treated with contempt when the 'real class' was still in the room but now harangues and ingratiates just as much, so happy is he to have someone to show off in front of/appear glamourous to.

I feel I may have been a little too hard on Who's Who because for what it is worth it is a genuinely funny film with a couple of laugh out loud moments. It's just that tonally, it is one of Leigh's weaker efforts. It is perhaps most notable now for marking the start of Leigh's collaborations with one of his favourite actors, Phil Davis, who puts in a lovely and likeable turn here as one of Alan's colleagues, determined to get a rise out of him each day.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Out On Blue Six : Tom Robinson Band

End Transmission

Hard Labour (1973)

Hard Labour, Mike Leigh's first film for the BBC is one he has little time for. He feels it undisciplined, that shooting a film in his native Salford, in the streets he grew up in, meant he was too close to the subject to present it correctly. He also felt a pressure, totally created for himself, to produce a 'Play For Today' film in the manner his producer, Tony Garnett had helped create alongside that other great director, Ken Loach.

Well frankly, I think Leigh's being too hard on himself. Hard Labour is brilliant. A beautifully concise warts and all narrative about a way of life, of suffering in silence, populated by a great cast and a host of typically Leigh characters. 
Liz Smith, now a national treasure, gives a great and rightfully subdued performance as the put upon working class mother whose work is never done. Indeed, Kate Bush's This Woman's Work could be this film's theme. She cleans for a middle class woman who treats her like a second class citizen, she is guilt tripped into giving to the church bring and buy sale by a hectoring, badgering nun, and her biggest weight upon her shoulders is of course her family; principally her loathsome needy husband played brilliantly by Clifford Kershaw, who perfectly embodies that notion of a middle aged man totally uncomfortable in his own skin. 

Smith floats through scenes ghost like, a downtrodden victim of being constantly at the beck and call of others. She is simple in action and seemingly in mind too, but that is turned on its head in the film's climax as we see she is a woman suffering internally; fully aware of her pathetic, careworn existence she turns to her faith for answers and believes herself to be sinful for feeling no love for her leeching husband. Sadly even her faith lets her down; the priest in the confessional more concerned with his newspaper and picking his nose than listening to the awkward, inarticulate pleas for help and understanding in the compartment next to him. Watching her suffer, being ignored and treated like muck by all around her is immensely saddening and frustrating - Leigh nails the audience empathy easily.

Look out too for actors who went onto bigger things; Ben Kingsley for example as the local Asian taxi cab operator and also Bernard Hill, as Smith and Kershaw's eldest. He's clearly his mother's son,  Leigh offering us a neat twist to show the pain in the next generation, albeit in a different gender (Polly Hemingway as his sister seems certain to break away -  like many a strong Leigh woman, she's hampered now but the future looks certain and promising) doomed to suffer in silence at the hands of his wife played by Leigh perrenial and soon to be wife, Alison Steadman, in the first of Leigh's obnoxious upwardly mobile harridans. 

Also of note for music fans is a brief appearance by Alan Erasmus as Hill's mate and fellow mechanic. Erasmus would go on to co-form Factory Records and The Hacienda alongside Tony Wilson. This is a rare chance to see him at, what was, his day job.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Out On Blue Six : The Third Degree

A cover of Duffy's Mercy, done as it should be, Northern Soul style by The Third Degree

End Transmission

3 From Four

As readers may recall, I recently mentioned a new DVD/Music store in Warrington called Head which have some very good three for a tenner bargains from the Film 4 range. This post looks at three films made by Film 4 in the 1980s, at the very start of the life of Channel 4's film arm

My Beautiful Laundrette, 1985

The landmark of 80s British cinema has understandably and perhaps rightfully dated somewhat, serving as a time capsule document of Thatcher's Britain and a keen occasionally earnest essay in race, sexuality, immigration and class.

To use the laundrette analogy, when its on a spin cycle, at its best, My Beautiful Laundrette is an enjoyable and engrossing experience; especially in the characterisation and performances from Saeed Jaffrey  as the wheeler dealer uncle, and an electric Daniel Day-Lewis in what would prove to be the launchpad of his career. It's easy to see why this film put him on his way, he prowls catlike throughout the film and seems instantly iconic, challenging the audience perceptions.

However when it gets sludgy, My Beautiful Laundrette becomes too earnest. Gordon Warnecke has a suitable air of naive innocence with a streak of ambition, but he naturally struggles opposite Day-Lewis and many soapbox scenes seem too overtly stagey and preachy in his wooden delivery. Nevertheless, the film remains notably groundbreaking and iconic in gay cinema.

 Angel, 1982

I've been wanting to watch this one for years, so I guess as a result it was always going to come as an anti climax when you do. Oh well.

Angel, Neil Jordan's debut and the start of his collaboration with leading man Stephen Rea, is nevertheless impressive. As an essay on revenge and the lure of violence as seemingly a solution, but inevitably just a bigger problem, it is quite morbidly fascinating. 

Rea plays the poetic lost soul, a saxophonist who witnesses a double murder,  with a  deterioration that is painfully sombre to behold. First time director Jordan places his acts of revenge and the nature of violence, both his and of the gun toting gangsters working a protection racket, against the back drop of The Troubles in a manner that is never forced or laboured. Indeed politics are never really mentioned, only implied, which further serves to prove just how tenuous a link these criminals actually have to any 'cause'.  It's a uniquely Northern Irish film, inherent in both its lyricism and its grubby blood stained reality. That said though, the opening scenes of the band playing the red neon soaked seedy past its prime dancehall has an air not too dissimilar to early Scorsese and Mean Streets, whilst Rea's drive to find the assassin with the orthopaedic shoes, is quirky enough to befit a Hitchcock. 

Ultimately though the film, whilst interesting, never truly capitalised on the potential of the initial set up and those first scenes. The depressing mood of Rea's descent into being just like those he preys on, is just that; depressing. Credit to Jordan though, it's amazing to think a film this polished was his debut. He would go on to even better things, with Rea this time as a runaway IRA gunman, in The Crying Game

She'll Be Wearing Pink Pyjamas, 1984

This used to regularly appear on Channel 4 in the 80s, being one of its first Film 4 features. I well remember watching it a couple of times with my parents; clearly as liberal pair who didn't bat much of an eyelid to their pre-teen son being exposed to nudity and depictions and talk of sex; though I do remember asking them what a 'period' was after hearing one character say they'd just got theirs - a moment in my life I'd completely forgotten about until rewatching this.

She'll Be Wearing Pink Pyjamas is a small scale, homegrown piece of feminist cinema and ostensibly an ensemble piece concerning a disparate group of women (ages ranging from 30s to 50s) participating in the UK's first all female survivalist/outward bound course in the Lake District. I say ostensibly ensemble because, although the cast is ably filled by capable actresses of the time, this is really Julie Walters show, as befits the brilliant range of work she was beginning to undertake in the 80s. It doesn't particularly help the would be ensemble nature that some of the characterisation for the other women is often so lacking. A case in point, one character gives up and leaves the course the night before the final activity. She returns in the night, revealing she got home and burst into tears. However on the day of the final, she decides she can't do it and doesn't seem that perturbed by her decision. Just like that. It's hardly a great or believable character path, and a few minutes later she decides she can do it anyway. That said, one of the better and most truthful moments in the film comes from that splendid and instantly recognisable actress Janet Henfrey, as she reveals to her newfound friends that she's only ever had sex once in her life. It's tender, heartfelt and poignant and above all it's well played.

It's a very British and 80s film, a real template in what was early Film 4 with a decidedly 80s score from composer John Du Prez. Not that that's always a bad thing, it has a more timeless sweep that befits the beautiful landscapes at times,  but it can be intrusive, with several moments of jarring 'dramatic'/ 'in danger' music for scenes in which characters do little more than fall in shallow water.

Theme Time : Sibelius - The Sky At Night; Save It!

Ok I can't profess to being a regular viewer or to having an interest, but what I can profess to have is a keen sense of and fondness for national institutions, and The Sky At Night, the monthly BBC magazine programme devoted to astronomy, is certainly one of those. The show has been running since 1957 and was hosted until his demise by Patrick Moore. Now, one year on from the great man's death, the BBC are considering axeing this fixed point in the schedules, currently hosted by Chris Lintott and Lucie Green. 

I am dismayed to hear they are considering this and I urge you to sign this petition that I was made aware of earlier today to keep this institution on air

Here's the show's theme, At The Castle Gate by Jean Sibelius, performed by The Royal Philharmonic and conducted by my hometown's famous son, Sir Thomas Beecham

Out On Blue Six : Chuck Berry

End Transmission

Catherine The Great

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Theme Time : Lalo Schifrin

In homage to the current excellent BBC4 documentary series Sound And Cinema, Theme Time goes not to TV, but to the big screen instead, focusing on Lalo Schifrin and his scores for two distinctive tough guy San Franciscan cops, Bullitt and Dirty Harry

Monday, 23 September 2013

Kinky Boots : Valerie Leon

Kinky everything!

The gorgeous Valerie Leon

The Arbor (2011)

The Arbor is the best documentary film I've seen since Dreams Of a Life. Like that film, it also hits you with one hell of an emotional punch in its slow unravelling of a tragic life.

Andrea Dunbar was a flickering flame that burned bright but all too swiftly. She wrote her first play, The Arbor, at the age of 15 in one of her school books. Heavily based on her own life on the Brafferton Arbor, a street on Buttershaw Estate, Bradford, the play - like all of Dunbar's writing - had a realistic rhythm to its dialogue that is redolent of working class northern communities. Dunbar was an observer and recorder and it is still staggering to think of the work she produced at such an early age. In an interesting diversion (and a chance to gain more of an understanding of Dunbar through this semi autobiographical work) scenes from The Arbor are played out in the very street itself by actors like Natalie Gavin and Jimi Mistry, making for unique theatre, and interspersed with clips from archive documentary and interview footage featuring Andrea, her mother and father.

 Her next play was probably her most famous, Rita Sue and Bob Too which was subsequently turned into a film in the mid 80s. By the end of that decade however, Andrea was dead. Collapsing of a brain tumour in her local boozer (the one featured in the infamous Black Lace 'Gangbang' song scene in the aforementioned film) at the age of 29. 

The Arbor is an engrossing experimental drama that seeks to explore the life of Dunbar and her kin as well as being a social document for the neighbourhood itself. A piece of verbatim theatre, the director, Clio Barnard, casts actors (including Neil Dudgeon, Monica Dolan and Rita Sue and Bob Too's George Costigan) to play Dunbar's friends and family who lip sync their real life counterparts recollections. It's mercifully not as gimmicky as it sounds and after 10-15 mins I defy you to spot the miming - so fully does each actor immerse themselves in the real person they are presenting to the audience.

It's clear to see that the tragedy of Dunbar's life is that she died too young. For society, she died too young to mature as a writer and capitalise in her early success, for her family, she died too young to bring her children up into the world. It is the latter tragedy that The Arbor ultimately tackles head on. The film belongs to Dunbar's daughters (both from different fathers) Lorraine and Lisa. 

Lisa (Christine Bottomley) has nothing hut admiration, love and good words for her late mother, whereas mixed race Lorraine (Manjinder Virk) is the complete opposite, noticeably bitter and angry towards her mother from the start. This contrasting viewpoint is best displayed in the film's opening scene and the way both women relate a story from their childhood about a fire in their bedroom; Lisa sees it as a funny anecdote to discuss and considers herself responsible for getting themselves locked into a room that is slowly burning around them, whereas Lorraine recalls her mother locking them in, and so for her it is a story of neglect. The contrasting truths is immediately fascinating and well handled by Barnard. Clearly for Lorraine, being Andrea Dunbar's daughter is a burden and, as her biographical story plays out throughout the film, one can see why; history repeats itself in Lorraine, a woman who subsequently neglects her own children, having two taken away from her by social services, and being charged with the manslaughter of another, Harris, a baby born addicted to the drugs she was heavily indulging in whilst selling her body to pay for her habit.

A tragic true life story for modern times, The Arbor is ultimately about loss; the loss of Andrea at a tragically young age after a difficult life of alcohol, the loss the theatre had as a result, the loss of Lorraine to drug addiction and the loss of her son, Harris.