Film Review: Filth (R18+) (UK, 2013)


From the man that brought you Trainspotting we have another gritty, intense depiction of debauchery, excessive drug and alcohol intake and the deterioration of the mind courtesy of the abuse of those substances. Climb aboard the rollercoaster and see if you can deduce what’s really going on in this mind-melding trip.

Bruce Robertson ( James McAvoy) appears to have it all, a stunning wife and adorable daughter, a secure job working as a detective with the local Scottish police force and he’s in line for a promotion. He’s so determined to secure that coveted Detective Inspector role that he’s prepared to lie, cheat and manipulate his colleagues and friends to do it. At first, it seems like Robertson has it all under control, he blackmails his junior colleague Ray Lennox ( Jamie Bell), whilst he sneakily publicly slanders Peter Inglis (Emun Elliott about his sexuality, all whilst conning his way into being best friends with one of the richest men in town Bladesy (Eddie Marsan). As he continues on his secretive scheme all whilst downing copious amounts of booze and snorting lines of cocaine, we start to see not only Robertson’s plan unravel but his mind too. He begins to start hallucinating, seeing his reflection with a pig’s head, or an eerie ghost of a young boy that seems to catch him when he’s most vulnerable. As he descends into madness, the truth of Robertson’s life becomes revealed and like a plate-spinning circus performer things all start to come crashing down.

McAvoy delivers a stellar performance as Robertson, managing to embody the insanely driven character who steamrolls his way through his associates. Shifting from charming to terrorising in a blink but it’s his turns when he’s at his weakest that we feel a sliver of empathy for him. Eddie Marsan is also brilliant, he’s been often cast for playing hard-headed or brutish characters and here he’s the exact opposite. A geeky socially awkward Protestant Mason with almost zero life skills but a trucktonne of money. Joanne Froggatt (most famous for her sweet Anna on Downton Abbey) makes a glowing brief appearance as Mary, and it’s in her that Robertson seems to find a sense of redemption and solace from his madness, but it’s all too short-lived.

If you’re familiar with Irvine Welsh’s novels and previous involvements in film, his warped style is ever present in this movie also. It’s visually quite a lot to take in, from sharp jerky or spinning camera angles, to graphic depictions of brutal violence. The sets and locations where most of the action takes place also seem to be characters in themselves. Robertson’s home is cliché contemporary modern but whenever he’s there it always seems empty. This in itself is a foreshadowing to the shocking reality that is revealed near the end of the film. The police station is cluttered but lacks a real ambience, and it seems more like a lifeless factory. Scotland’s streets are overcast, grimy and pocketed with petty crime. It’s certainly an honest, albeit slightly exaggerated depiction of life in this town.
The soundtrack is also a cracker with some quirky choices that also play a part in the storyline. The David Soul track ‘Silver Lady’ makes a kitschy appearance a la musical number where our characters are the ones lip syncing the song. A Clint Mansell & Coco Summer duet cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’, The Shirelles’ ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’ and Tom Jones’ ‘Dr Love’ to name a few. Finally make sure you stay for the credits, there’s some amusing animation to go along with it that ties in with the film.


Filth is out through Icon Films this Thursday, 21st November 2013


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Carina Nilma

Office lackey day-job. Journalist for The AU Review night-job. Emotionally invested fangirl.