Tuesday, 29 March 2011

F (dvd)

Britain isn't a happy place these days. Lack of money, lack of job security, a Government nobody likes (even the people who voted for them), riots, two inches of snow bringing the country to a halt, flu, crime, Simon Cowell...take your pick of issues to depress you. Wouldn't it be nice to have someone to blame for the state of things? Or if not to blame, then at least to have a go at. So step forward, British Youth. Maligned by the press, portrayed on BBC3 and E4 as idiots, they don't have a great image. Whether the makers of F believe this or not, I'm not too fussed. This isn't an indictment of a whole section of British culture; this is the story of a man who wants to do his best in his job and as a father, but is brought down by the people he wants to help as well as his own weaknesses.

David Schofield plays Robert Anderson, a middle aged teacher at a North London school. His teenage daughter Kate is in his class as is a fat chav who doesn't react well to being given an F for an essay. When Anderson gives the chav a belittling or a bit of fairly standard teacher banter (depending how you see it - I heard pretty much the same stuff back in my school days) in front of the class, the chav nuts him. Anderson's faith in his abilities, in his students and in the school system is more or less destroyed by this one act. The Head and the governors are more concerned with avoiding legal action from the boy's parents as well as avoiding finding fault with anyone while Anderson is unable to return to the man and teacher he was. Several months later, his wife has left him, his daughter thinks he's a loser and his colleagues know he's drinking too much. Placing his daughter in detention simply to spend time with her, Anderson doesn't know things are about to get much worse in the shape of silent hoodies who have come to lay siege to the school.

There are definite positives and negatives to F. The downsides first: a few gaps in logic grate (are the hoodies supposed to be chav ninjas? They barely make a sound even when jumping from cupboard to floor), people say `is anyone there?' far too often, and the makers have obviously watched early John Carpenter films and well as the French horror Them several times. While I wouldn't personally call it a negative, some viewers may find the odd aspect of F unsatisfying although to say what exactly would be to spoil it. Similarly, there's not as much on screen gore and violence as some might expect or want. That's not to say this isn't unpleasant. Two scenes, one featuring a locked bin and the other the aftermath of a beating, are particularly aggressive and painful. Overall, this more to do with the threat of violence than outright violence. Put it this way, if the film didn't feature hoodies with knives, this would probably be a 15 rather than an 18.

The positives - it's refreshing for a film like this to not focus on the lead turning into an action hero, and it also doesn't shy away from portraying the adults as part of the problem. Whether they're unwilling to tell a teenage boy that hitting a teacher is wrong or too eager to think children are blameless, they're to some extent at fault for creating a system that doesn't work. Schofield gives a good, solid performance in the lead role and while the other actors aren't given much to do, they portray their growing fear well enough. There are some problems with the script and the film's logic which could have been worked on but I can forgive most of these issues. F is, for the most part, a decent British horror/thriller which may alienate some with its bleak tone and flaws, but I still suggest you give it a watch.

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