Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Directed by: Jon S. Baird
Starring: James McAvoy, Imogen Poots, Jamie Bell, Joanne Froggatt
Deemed ‘unfilmable’ by many, it has taken over a decade to bring Irvine Welsh’s novel of sordid depravity to the big screen. Dark, funny and surprisingly poignant, Filth examines similar themes of immorality & addiction that Danny Boyle so vividly explored in his adaptation of Trainspotting, another Welsh novel. Nearly 20 years on, Boyle’s film remains a pinnacle of British cinema and while Filth’s lasting appeal remains to be seen, it’s certainly a worthy adaptation of Welsh’s source material.
Bruce Robertson is a morally depraved junkie who works as a detective in the Glaswegian Police Department. Gunning for a promotion that he believes will help him win back his estranged wife and daughter, Bruce’s predilections towards booze & drugs pull him further in to a hallucinogenic pit that he finds almost impossible to get out of. The narrative, however, is secondary to a film driven by its main character. As a result, there are times when the story is unfortunately forgotten about, lost inside Bruce’s own delicate psyche.
An occasional lack of narrative matters little though when you have such a driven lead actor. As Bruce, James McAvoy gives a powerhouse performance that is likely to define his career. Playing against type in a role that must have been both mentally & psychically challenging, McAvoy’s Bruce is thoroughly unlikeable on the surface; a self-obsessed bigot having an affair with his close friend’s wife and framing another for a harassment crime that he himself is responsible for. Thanks to McAvoy’s masterly performance though, Bruce is an antihero you can’t help but love. As Bruce’s story turns from debauchery to tragedy, McAvoy brings an emotional intensity that gives a powerfully poignant edge to the film’s final act.
The story may focus on Bruce, but there’s a whole host of excellent support on show here. Particularly noteworthy is Eddie Marsan, whose amusingly dimwitted Bladesey stands by Bruce despite the awful way he’s treated. As Bruce’s younger and socially uncertain partner, Jamie Bell provides sterling support, as does Joanne Froggatt, as the lady who may well be the key to Bruce’s salvation.
For director Jon S. Baird, Filth has been a labor of love. His first film Cass suffered from a poor pace, but here Baird pitches it perfectly. Like its central character, Filth thunders ahead at an unrelenting speed, provoking shock, laughs & emotion through Bruce’s relentless wickedness.
Baird’s talent is clear to see throughout. His soundtrack is a perfect journey through the landscape of classic rock, complete with a show-stopping cameo from David Soul. Whilst his stylish camera work captures the depravity of Glasgow’s underbelly with similar panache to Danny Boyle.
Helmed by fantastic direction and led by an utterly mesmerizing central performance, Filth is a blistering exploration of unashamed immorality. Almost guaranteed to upset as many people as it will entertain, it’s an unremitting assault on the senses that draws you in and won’t let you go.