Pleasure Island

2014/ UK

Director: Mike Doxford

Starring: Ian Sharp, Gina Bramhill, Rick Warden

Words: C. Abbott

Shot and set in the town of Grimsby, this is a film that, on paper, is truly unique. A film that turns the cinematic spotlight on a part of England that is not only neglected but the target of international mockery (Or it will be). Regardless of any preconceived notions one might have regarding this town, the film itself has to been seen relatively, like any other.

As someone that grew up in the town, this is a film that has been on my radar for quite some time. Shot two years prior to general release, the build-up has been more than intriguing; especially after the reception the final piece has received for early screenings. The results are… better than feared, worse than hoped.

The story follows a soldier returning home after many years on tour, his town has changed and so have the people. He decides to intervene and the consequences soon spiral as both him and his family are faced with increasing danger. Now, obviously the main narrative is nothing new here. This is a tried and tested, by the numbers affair that, on the whole achieves its arch in an entertaining and coherent way. The issues are that nothing really new is to be had. How many times do we expect or even want to see these silent, stoic type characters meander through paper thin narratives and forgettable scripts?

On a personal note, the joy of seeing the familiar streets and locations of the town soon wore off. Geographically speaking it was all over the place but that is neither here nor there. The problems, no matter how crippling all link back to the script. The characters, much like the film as a whole are flawed, flat and one dimensional. This isn’t to say the filmmakers didn’t try and add layers to these characters; the issue is that nothing was explored to a sufficient extent. We see these characters suffering with addiction and negative traits but we don’t feel anything. They are just vehicles to advance a predictable and uninspired plot. In fact, if the script never repeatedly reiterated that the central character was a soldier, than there would be no way of knowing.

Nothing here quite feels fresh or exciting. The acting is serviceable, with performances from Gina Bramhill and Rick Warden being  particularly noteworthy. Ian Sharp in the lead did a commendable job with the character that was at odds with a lacklustre script. It is clear that effort was made here by all the cast and crew and it does indeed show. Budgetary limitations may be the reason for the shortcomings but then again, a lot more has been achieved with a lot less.

It is a saddened truth that this is an unfortunate, squandered potential for an area to see more filmmakers unitise its unique landscape. Last year’s Catch me Daddy, which was similarly shot and set locally for Sheffield used the rugged Yorkshire wilderness to create an atmosphere and engaging aesthetic. Pleasure Island feels more television than cinematic and that is one of the worst feelings you can have towards a film. This isn’t to say Pleasure Island is a bad film; it just isn’t a great one.