This is Shane Meadows: Twenty Four Seven (15)
Dir: Shane Meadows, 1997, UK, 96mins
Cast: Bob Hoskins, Danny Nussbaum, Bruce Jones, Frank Harper, Jo Bell
It has been ten years since Shane Meadows made his feature debut with Twenty Four Seven, but the film still feels as fresh as it did when it was first released. Set predominately in the mid-80's, with contemporary scenes acting as bookends, the story centres on Darcy (Hoskins), a kind-hearted character who establishes a boxing club in the hope of giving the listless local youths some sense of purpose. He faces resistance at first, with the animosity between rival groups being a major hurdle, but Darcy is not a man to give up at the first obstacle, and when he does get the club on its feet the teenagers under his charge briefly find a light being shone into their bleakly mundane lives.
It can't last of course, and Meadows' film falters slightly when Darcy's dreams come crashing down around his ears, but until that point it is a joy to watch. Twenty Four Seven is full of the elements which would later become Meadows hallmarks. The director has always complemented the gritty realism of his films with moments of lyrical beauty, and Ashley Rowe's superb black-and-white photography gives his debut a remarkably cinematic feel in places. In addition, Meadows' use of music is as potent as ever, his script is full of laidback, easygoing humour, and his mostly non-professional cast give wonderfully naturalistic performances. But it's the star in the lead role who really gives Twenty Four Seven its emotional weight, with Hoskins giving one of the best performances of his career. Darcy is a model of upright decency, and Hoskins makes him a heartbreaking figure; his inarticulate longing for local shopgirl Jo (Bell) is genuinely affecting, and a sequence in which he takes his elderly aunt out dancing is beautifully handled by Meadows.
Twenty Four Seven does display some first-time filmmaker's naivety, with the tone being rather uneven throughout, and the picture almost stumbles towards the end. All of Meadows' films deal with the impact of violence on ordinary lives, but when the darker edge to this story appears its handled in an abrupt and jarring fashion, and it sits uneasily with what has gone before. The director seems to be straining for an operatic sense of tragedy at the climax, which he can't quite attain, but he manages to rescue the film with a closing montage that ends the story on a perfect note. Shane Meadows has made better films since Twenty Four Seven, but this touching and lovingly made picture still stands as a fine achievement, and it marked a very auspicious debut for one of the brightest talents in British cinema.
Alongside a trailer, there's a laid-back commentary from Meadows and co-writer Paul Fraser (who seems to struggle with the very concept of a DVD commentary) which drifts down too many unconnected tangents. The disc also contains Meadows' exceptional short film Three Tears for Jimmy Prophet starring Paddy Considine.