I am not a huge fan of Ben Wheatley. I am putting this out there, coming clean, as it is a statement that I know will horrify a lot of movie buffs, especially those with penises I suspect. I loved Sightseers but others have left me cold. So it was with trepidation and a little dread that I approached Happy New Colin Burstead but I left happily surprised by this fairly ‘normal’ family drama with an impeccable cast.
Our titular ‘hero’ Colin Burstead (always brilliant Neil Maskell) has booked a swish mansion in Dorset for his family to spend New Year together. Sweeping medieval soundtrack aside (thank you Clint Mansel) we get the feeling of foreboding as soon as Colin gets on the phone to his sister Ginny (Hayley Squires) and she tells him she’s invited their estranged brother Paul, as a ‘surprise for mum’.
As the family descend on the mansion a freak accident befalls mum Sandy (a wonderfully self absorbed Doon Mackichen) and dad (fantastic Colin Paterson) is pestering Colin for a loan. Already you could cut the tension with a knife and then Paul (Sam Rile) arrives and it descends into the only kind of chaos that a fractious family all in one location at New Year could bring.
HNYCB is Shakespearean at heart, not only because on Mansell’s score but the way it is played out. Semi scripted by Wheatley and shot in 11 days it is an impressive piece of filmmaking. The cast is stuffed to the gills with excellence, I would list them all but do look it up as they are all wonderful, every story strand is realised enough to not make one feel cheated. It’s a tense watch relieved somewhat by Sam Riley’s and Alexandra Maria Lara’s rock star presence as Paul and glamorous German girlfriend. And it is funny of course, very funny in places. Neil Maskill’s Colin is a man on the edge and there are some very sadly touching moments towards the end where Maskill really pulls the audience in. Wheatley has done a great job here and make sure and stay until the end as many of the crew appear in a somewhat surreal club style scene, well it is Ben Wheatley after all….