Are you tired of watching films about animated chickens? Does the idea of a Sarah Jessica Parker movie career fill you with dread? Is it disappointing how long ago it was that the Wachowskis seemed fresh and exciting? What about the fact that box office chart position is directly related to the size of advertising budget, and often inversely proportional to quality?
Well, maybe you can breathe a small sigh of relief (though not because SJP has been quietly put out to pasture). Every once in a while, the worlds most commercialised, sanitised and exploited medium still has the ability to move and surprise with a picture of sheer quality.
The film in question is Love + Hate. Set somewhere in the north of England, at its heart are two dark and doomed romances. Naseema (Samina Awan), a British Muslim of Pakistani descent, gets a job at a local decorating centre, where she meets Adam (Tom Hudson). The youngest son of a racist family, Adam and his brother Sean hang out with a group of friends, throwing bricks through the window of the local corner shop and victimising “Pakis.” Despite this, Adam and Naseema are immediately attracted to each other.
Meanwhile Michelle (Nichola Burley), another employee, strikes up a relationship with Yousif (Was Zakir), Naseema’s brother, who she meets one night out on the town. A wild character when left to himself, Yousif nevertheless acts as the dominant male in his restrictive, orthodox household. As he struggles to reconcile his feelings for Michelle with the demands he places on Naseema, the two relationships begin to strain. As family intrudes and religions and beliefs collide, can the two couples hold on to each other?
Love + Hate is writer/director Dominic Savage’s feature length debut, and it’s a cracking way to start. His cast, who boast only a smattering of acting experience, give him absolutely everything, but, even amongst these excellent performances, Burley stands out as the old beyond her years Michelle. Her strained encounters with her father and torturous, secretive relationship make mesmerising watching. Zakir also excels as the troubled Yousif, caught between obligations to his family and personal desires, living a life of hypocrisy.
The dialogue, which was apparently largely improvised, is brilliant, and most of all feels realistic. The slick back and forths and wooden declarations of love that mainstream flicks tend to present just don’t show up; instead there’s something you can actually believe in. The film quickly boils to a gripping conclusion, all over in 86 minutes.
Films are huge projects, and require enormous commitment. It must be much easier to pour yourself into your first feature film than your tenth, which is probably why novice directors often produce such brilliant work. The same can be said for novice actors, and the chemistry certainly seems to have been right here.
But as well as commitment it takes talent to create such superb, unlfinching drama, so hats off to Savage, because he’s turned out a real gem. And Hollywood take note, a novice director with an inexperienced cast has just shown you how it should be done. I only hope that it gets the recognition it deserves, regardless of how much is spent on the adverts.