Alan Bleasdale Presents Collection (Soft sand, Blue Sea. Self Catering. Blood on the Dole. Pleasure. Requiem Apache) DVD review

The play write and director, who charted and reflected the devastation of Tory Britain, produced a series of films for channel 4 in the 90s. These have just been released on DVD by Simply Media. From Soft sand, Blue Sea set in Ireland and about adoption. Self Catering set with castaways on a desert island. To Blood on the Dole a bleak look at lack of future in North of England. By way of Pleasure and the world of internet romance.Finally Requiem Apache and a former criminal who returns to the fold.

Jim Morris’ ‘Blood on the Dole’ takes us into the lives of four school kids. Having just left school, they venture into the real world. Expected to face post recession Britain on their own, it becomes a battle to find work. Wrestling the lack of opportunity, personal emptiness and poor prospects while living in a deprived area of Merseyside. Aneurin Hughes is a teacher trying to make a difference but also seems overly keen on a pupil. Also starring Philip Dowd, Stephen Walters and Suzanne Maddock.

A hard look. Uncompromising in its tone and content. This film is a sometimes uncomfortable look at the devastation of post industrial England and in particular, the former shipping centre of Liverpool. Though many of the characters are trapped in a circle of emotional and personal, we have a layer of optimism.

No extras on the disc.

In Raymond Murtagh’s ‘Requiem Apache’ Hamish (Alfred Molina) wants a new life in the countryside with his wife and child. When however you have a past, it always catches up with you. So, convinced into one last job, for the money and the security of never having to do it again, Hamish has to take his child along. Compromise and compassion but at what price?

The best of the set in my opinion, it lives somewhere between genre convention, social drama and commentary piece. Molina humanises Hamish by giving him faults and feeling. The pain of love, with the need to provide with that under lying route of expectation is well handled.

No extras on the disc sadly.

Andrew Cullen’s Self Catering, based on his original stage play, finds five survivors of a plane crash, marooned on a remote desert island. They are a disparate bunch. Nerdy film buff (John Gordon Sinclair), Henry (named after his hero Henry Fonda).  Clint (Andrew Schofield) an alpha male. He likes building shelters and seducing the women. Joan (Noreen Kershaw), a feminist. Jane Horrocks a Marilyn Monroe icon type, all air head and no thought. Finally Jennifer Ehle’s Meryl, who is fragile and was an air stewardess in a former life.

Lord of the Flies thematically inspired every ‘lost group on an island’ film or play…. We do have other themes at play. Themes of gender, identity and politics. It becomes interesting when it riffs on these themes. When it meditates on these in dreams.

The disc is again…plain…

13-year-old David (Laurence Kinlan) is stuck at a children’s home in Ireland. The couple managing the home, Sarah (Julia Ford) and Gerry (Brendan Coyle) try but life is hard. When nine-year-old Danielle (Aimee Mulligan) arrives at the home, everything changes. They form a bond, sharing dreams of a better life.

Adoption, social services and the state of society was in question here. Rage can be seen simmering here. The frustration of what was being achieved, over the reality of complex and often impossible situations, had left a deep rift. Even today we have the complex issues faced here but now we have to mediate budgets and impersonal feelings. Cleverly written and two leads you care for. The film is bold and feels inspired. As much by 400 blows as by reality.


Disc is plain again…

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