Funny Games for the ASBO generation? Film critic Tom Leins takes a closer look at Cherry Tree Lane -the new movie from former Devon resident Paul Andrew Williams.
Paul Andrew Williams surged to prominence with his disturbingly good directorial debut London to Brighton back in 2006. The unanimous praise that greeted his caustic underworld thriller was richly deserved, and the success seemed even sweeter for local film fans when it was revealed that Williams had roots in South Devon, and the movie was actually scripted at his family’s Teignmouth home. After exploring uneven new ground with his cartoonish follow-up movie The Cottage, Williams has returned to his stark, low-budget roots with Cherry Tree Lane, a harrowing home invasion movie that pulls few punches in its aggressive treatment of a middle-class couple tormented by nihilistic juvenile delinquents.
Christine (Rachael Blake) and Mike’s (Tom Butcher) relationship is already under enormous strain when their evening is interrupted by a posse of teenage thugs hoping to track down their wayward son and enact a gangland punishment. When it becomes apparent that the boy isn’t going to show up in a hurry, the hoodlums settle in for the night, growing increasingly frustrated by the hopelessly middle-class attitudes of their unwitting captives. As they grow bored of waiting for their prey, they begin to take out their simmering frustrations on the couple, and events take a distinctly queasy turn. Although the narrative recalls Michael Haneke’s memorably warped Funny Games, Williams eschews Haneke’s forensic examination of media violence in favour of a brutally realistic approach, in which the tension is ratcheted up one notch at a time and the violence seems random and chilling.
The brisk 70-minute run-time has been questioned by some critics, but the film has arguably been trimmed of narrative flab and feels taut and menacing throughout as a result. In truth, Cherry Tree Lane falls short of the lofty standards set by London to Brighton -most British movies do -but it finds Williams back on solid ground after the disappointing The Cottage. The uncompromising blend of stomach-churning dialogue and darkly amusing dialogue is adeptly handled by Williams, and Cherry Tree Lane clearly comes from the dark imagination of the man who dreamt up London to Brighton. The ending may be a step too far, but Cherry Tree Lane is a twisted slice of Brit-grit that reaffirms Williams’ bold reputation. Visceral stuff.
â€¢ Cherry Tree Lane is released on DVD by Metrodome on September 13.