Directed By Dexter Fletcher. Starring Charlie Creed-Miles, Will Poulter, Liz White, Andy Serkis, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Jaime Winstone 15A cert, Cineworld/Vue, Dublin, 95 min
BACK IN THE DAY, Londoner Wild Bill Hayward (Charlie Creed- Miles) had a fearsome rep: “The usual?” asks a East End publican upon Bill’s unexpected return.
“Ten pints, two grams and a punch up?” Still, eight years inside on a murder rap have left Bill yearning for a quieter life on the rigs in Scotland. “Me pals are waiting for me,” he tells the authorities. “It’s all been organised.”
There’s a complication. On his first drunken night out of prison Bill is returns to his old flat, only to find his 10- and 15-year-old sons abandoned by their mother and fending for themselves.
The older, Dean (Will Poulter, in the hands-down best screen performance of the season), has
no intention of letting Bill assume parental responsibilities. A fragile- tough teen with a job and worry lines, he’s far more grown up than his errant, indolent father. But little Jimmy (Sammy Williams) soon develops a soft spot for the old man, and social services are most insistent that the reluctant family stay together.
Can Bill bring himself to care? And can he evade the usual pitfalls of the prison rehab drama? His old cohorts, including a menacing Andy Serkis, are never far away. Jimmy, meanwhile, has fallen in with a very bad crowd indeed.
Don’t let the location or the geezers fool you. Any similarities between actor Dexter Fletcher’s directorial debut and a Danny
Dyer flick are purely coincidental.
Will Bill, though lighter in tone, is closer in terms of quality to fellow thesp Gary Oldman’s
Nil By Mouth. The screenplay displays an uncanny knack for capturing urban rhythms, but unlike the Oldman film, Will Bill’s grimy vérité is punctuated by outbreaks of hilarity. A potentially murderous bar-brawl cuts away to a disgruntled barmaid: “I’ve just hoovered in there,” she tuts. Elsewhere, dad’s failure to buy a suitable birthday present for Dean results in all-out farce.
The pitch is perfect and the cast more than capable of going from pathos to “scarper”. Highly recommended.