This weekend I watched Bob's Weekend, a 1996 film that didn't trouble the distributors.
I recall watching some consumery type programme on the BBC in 1996 that included a report on how the cinema chains in the UK are owned by the big Hollywood studios, which means little independent features get squeezed out of the market and struggle to find a distributor beyond film festivals. The report centred around Bob's Weekend, which it showed a few clips from, before they revealed that they had staged a screening with various people, including the actor Ian Holm, who later gave his view that this was a film that deserved to be seen by a wider audience. It never happened though, and it has taken me personally twenty-one years before I clapped eyes on Bob's Weekend (on YouTube)
Was it worth the wait? Nah, not really.
Whilst I still totally agree with that BBC report, I'm afraid to say that Bob's Weekend isn't really much of an unfairly treated gem. Granted, it's fair to say that when you look at writer/director Jevon O'Neill's subsequent sparse career, there's an argument for talent withering on the vine thanks to the monopoly of the big studios, but even if this had got a wide release at the time I can't see it taking the world by storm. It's just a very average, cheap first time feature.
Bruce Jones of Ken Loach's Raining Stones and latterly Coronation Street fame stars as Bob, an autodidact security guard with an encyclopedic knowledge for the letter 'B'. A diligent and officious, by-the-book person; he takes his eye off the ball one evening when giving in to his new colleague's desire to play football in the building they patrol. This ironic action is subsequently caught by his boss (Brian Glover) who seizes upon this opportunity to fire Bob on the spot. To cap the evening off, the hapless security guard then returns home to find his wife conducting an affair! Now utterly suicidal, Bob takes himself off to Blackpool for the weekend with the intention of chucking himself into the murky unforgiving depths of the Irish Sea. However, whilst there he meets a sympathetic young waitress, Angela (Charlotte Jones), and a series of mystical figures, who each offer him a chance to reassess his life.
O'Neill initially seems somewhat influenced by Loach (it's there in the casting of Bruce Jones and Ricky Tomlinson - who both starred in Raining Stones - as well as Brian Glover) but the fantastical detours the film makes are would-be Capra, leading to some uneasily handled changes of gear. He makes great use of the Blackpool locations, with the birds-eye-view of the then newly opened thrill-ride The Big One, the illuminations, the Tower and the ballroom, but his handle on the performances are less assured, leading to some hollow line readings. Charlotte Jones (no relation to Bruce) is quite weak with a children's TV drama-like performance as the well-meaning Angela, so it's unsurprising to see that she has subsequently moved behind the camera to create ITV's latest drama The Halcyon (essentially 'Downton Hotel' with a curious Bond-like theme tune and opening credits) Bruce Jones fares somewhat better with the lead role, which is within his admittedly limited range as a performer, given that it isn't too dissimilar to other parts he has played. Tomlinson and Glover's performances are effectively minor cameos that are dispensed with once the film moves to Blackpool.
The cheap independent status of the film is perhaps best exemplified and unfortunately scuppered by the bargain basement musical score (or should that be muzak score - a lot of it sounds like tinny, irritating lift muzak) from Don Gould and David Mindell. There are a couple of songs in there too, and they're truly terrible.