There really is no place like London but beneath the hustle, bustle and tourist attractions lies a grittier underworld. The tough graft of inner city council estates and the epically enlightening night bus treks every Londoner is familiar with rarely grace our screens; however at the London Film Festival I caught two films which provide two very unique social commentaries on just that.
First up was Nightbus – the entirety of which was set, you guessed it on a London night bus. With a long suffering driver, loud drunks, fare dodgers and competitive colleagues; Simon Baker creates the farcical scene of the night bus that Londoners are far too familiar with. The stereotypical characters are fairly astute to the point that I actually felt like I was on the night bus desperately wishing the never ending journey to fast forward to my stop. And this was the problem, the journey of the night bus itself is cyclical and with this I didn’t feel like the plot was getting me anywhere. Sure we can laugh at the familiar characters kicking off , the token drunk taking a slash but it’s nothing you can’t see on the number 91 from Charing Cross to Cock Fosters. That is all until the final scene is delivered in which an up until that point fairly silent character delivers a moving closing soliloquy. basically commenting on the sadness of living for the weekend- how we are sad all week in our dead end jobs with the same people waiting for Friday and then we all drink until we smile and then make tits of ourselves on the night bus. And as clichéd as it sounds- she had a point.
Next up we have Bypass – ‘Tim is a good kid, Tim is a criminal.’ Bypass is very much a coming of age tale following a boy who is forced to grow up too quickly after his mother’s death and his brother’s imprisonment he finds him self dodging bailiffs and becoming a criminal to keep him and his sister under their roof. Starring George Mackay, directed by Duane Hopkins,Bypass is very much an observation of broken Britain and lost youth. Mackay gives a powerful performance as Tim and the cast are strong throughout showing the gritty existence of deprived London and the underground drugs scene. However it feels like the plot doesn’t come to fruition with what feels like a false happy ending for Tim and his girlfriend Lily who battle with their family problems and lack of adult guidance throughout.
Both films are of there own merit and certainly worth a second glance to see a side of London that isn’t all glistening with the sounds of Big Ben and lights of Chelsea Bridge.