A pared-down approach reveals a quieter side to Ben Wheatley’s prodigious talent in this poignantly funny and razor-sharp observation of English family dysfunction.
Colin (a brilliant Neil Maskell) has rented a stately country home for his extended family’s New Year celebrations. He’s the centre of attention - though not always pleasantly so - until his estranged brother David (Sam Riley) unexpectedly arrives after a five-year absence and throws the family dynamic off-kilter. Is there enough booze? Who’s got the tunes? Who invited her? What on earth is he wearing? Anyone who has experienced an increasingly drunken and disastrous big family ‘do’ will hoot - and cringe - in recognition as the events unfold.
Wheatley’s skill with drama and characterisation (in evidence since his early features Down Terrace and Kill List) goes delightfully full frontal here, brought to life by an ensemble cast so uniformly good it makes name checking only a few feel wrong, (Joe Cole, Mark Monero, Charles Dance, Hayley Squires, Asim Chaudhry, Doon Mackichan and Bill Paterson have particularly meaty roles.) Shot in just under two weeks it has a sense of the dynamism, improvisation and veracity of early Dogme '95 films in its dizzying exploration of family and its many burdens.