Oscar Bait Season: Filth (2013) – Review
Reviewed by Jordan Goodier
It’s “indie film” time! Filth, a film written and directed by Jon S. Baird, is a comedy drama film that had a limited release within the UK over September and October. The film boasts an impressive cast in James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Jim Broadbent, Eddie Marsan and Shirley Henderson (to name but a few). Filth is a character study, above all else, about Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson (portrayed wonderfully by James McAvoy); a man with a very troubled past who suffers from bipolar disorder.
The majority of this film spends it’s time delving into the damaged psyche of Bruce and the various aspects of his life. It’s implied that Bruce’s wife left him before the film began due to his personal problems and this has pushed Bruce into a life filled with drugs, numerous sexual relationships with already married women, and a fierce determination to get the promotion to Detective Inspector. Over the course of the film we see what a vile person Bruce has become, and whilst it’s amusing to see exactly how vile the man is and hear the incredibly funny dialogue he spews out of his mouth, it’s the quieter moments that really get to the core of his character.
After Bruce tries to save a man’s life, he becomes involved with the man’s widow and her son. Seeing the woman and son brings back memories of the wife and daughter that left him and we get to see exactly how damaged and hurt Bruce is. He covers up his pain with materialistic, shallow and temporary pleasures in an attempt to forget the agony he is in. It’s all shown beautifully by McAvoy and Baird, making Bruce a complex and infinitely interesting character to follow throughout the story.
Due to the fairly large focus the script puts on Bruce, there’s not all that much time left for the slight murder mystery of the film. Bruce is put on the case of a murdered foreign student and put in charge of the rest of his co-workers, making Bruce think he has by far the best chance of getting the promotion. This murder case is pretty much pushed to the sidelines of the film, with barely any investigation happening within the first hour of the film’s ninety minute runtime. After that Bruce pretty much stumbles onto the killer and the gang that murdered the victim, and the film sort of stumbles to the finish line.
If the point of the film was to be an in depth character study into Bruce, then job well done. But I can’t help but feel that the murder mystery feels a little tacked onto the story. It’s only a minor gripe however, because of the further character development that scenes at the end give to the character of Bruce; the fact that the film focuses so much on the one character, although not necessarily a bad thing, leaves me very little to say about the supporting cast. They do their jobs and do them well, Jim Broadbent appears mostly in hallucinations that Bruce has and is extremely funny in his role as Bruce’s psychiatrist; but there’s very little to actually say about the supporting characters or the performances of the actors that portrayed them.
A very interesting little indie film that proves entertaining as both a drama and a comedy, it does what it says on the tin and it boasts a very fine performance by James McAvoy. This film has absolutely no buzz at the various American film awards, probably because it wasn’t about any extraordinary event in human history (12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips) or doesn’t boast any fantastic display of technology (Gravity). Obviously I’m joking, but there’s a pattern. Instead, it’s far more likely that Filth will be competing against Philomena for the “Award for Outstanding British Film” at the BAFTA awards.
I’m not entirely sure this film will win any awards or appeal to a mass audience, but it’s a solid enough film that deserves more attention than it currently has.