The title refers to the two main characters, both of whom suffer from drug addiction. The plot focuses on Eddie Marsan’s lonely ex soldier haunted by his past who takes in Candese Reid’s homeless teenage delinquent. As can be expected the two better each other’s lives before everything predictably goes wrong. Reid recently won at the London Film Festival for her performance, and quite rightly so. She makes a character that should be completely unlikable charming and manages to hold her own against Marsan. He carries most of the screen time and is truly captivating as a man who has the world against him.
The issues of drugs, war, youth culture, prostitution, domestic violence, rape, homelessness, gang culture are all forced into the very lean 90 minute running time. The result is a miserable mess which has very little new to say. The youth are portrayed as nothing but thugs and predictably are the ‘villains’ in the piece. At a house party we see one youth threaten another with a knife purely because of a misunderstood joke, and later a main character is knifed to death. All of this says nothing new yet is clearly set out to shock. Instead it just seems painfully bland as the knife wielding youth seems like little more than a cliché. After Cornish’s brilliant Attack the Block, it‘s surely time we moved away from showing these stereotypes so often without questioning them.
It is also filled with inconsistencies. Eddie Marsan’s character is portrayed as tough but gets broken down way too easily by a group of youths. Hard drug addiction is also miraculously cured merely by removing an addict from her flat. All of this results in the plot becoming increasingly daft as it progresses, veering away from the realistic image of London it so desperately wishes to depict.
Overall Junkhearts is more grim than gritty and seems to be a step back for British cinema rather than a step forward.