Down Terrace (2009) Directed By Ben Wheatley. With Robin Hill, Robert Hill and Julia Deakin.
Writer-director Ben Wheatley’s debut feature, Down Terrace, is a British crime drama that fuses together the kitchen-sink social realism of Shane Meadows, Ken Loach and ‘The Royle Family‘ to make compelling, yet highly uncomfortable viewing.
Wheatley, who demonstrates flair for creating small moments of humour around intense menace, sets a marker down with this unsettling look into the world of a crime family in steep decline. Thanks to being mostly confined to the small rooms of your average two-up-two-down terraced house, the film has a tangible sense of claustrophobia which is accentuated by the intensity of the drama. It’s one of those films where even as people sit down to a family meal, you can sense the brewing violence in the air. The tight, confined spaces only serve to heighten the feeling of being trapped in these small rooms with psychotic characters.
All the performances register strongly, the picks being Robert Hill (Bill) and Julia Deakin (Maggie), the mother and father of the house, or Godfather and Godmother. To begin with, Maggie has the demeanour of the loving, but downtrodden Mum who runs to the kitchen when the boys start arguing, but as things unfold her character develops and the performance is chillingly well measured. Anyone familiar with Wheatley’s follow up film, Kill List will cheer when the likeable Michael Smiley turns up in a similar, albeit small role. So, Down Terrace sets a strong precedent for a debut director with its realism, horror and blacker-than-black comedy. 4/5