Make Room for 'Romeo'
By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 3, 2000
"A Room for Romeo Brass" is a sort of coming of age-noir, set
against a dead-end world of grim housing developments and grimmer
weather, where neglected kids hang aimlessly 'round the neighborhood.
Andrew Shim and Ben Marshall are mates who make mischief in "A Room for Romeo Brass."
(Dean Rogers/USA Films)
This is England's Midlands, an industrialized, working-class region
where Romeo (Andrew Shim), a husky boy in his early teens, lives for
very few things. One is his friend, Gavin "Knocks" (Ben Marshall). The
other is food. When we meet him, he's taking a bag of chips (that's
"french fries" to you, mate) home to his mom and sis, but he can't
stop himself from eating almost everything before he gets to the
This uninspiring life changes one day, when Morell (Paddy
Considine), a gangly man in his twenties, saves Romeo and Knocks from
a beating at the hands of some older boys. Grateful at first, Romeo
gradually realizes he's stuck with the weirdest friend in the
Morell's a social misfit, who thinks nothing of attaching himself
to the far younger boy. And it isn't long before Morell is squeezing
Knocks out of the picture and begging Romeo for an introduction to his
beautiful sister, Ladine (Vicky McClure).
English writer-director Shane Meadows, who made the feature
"TwentyFourSeven" (starring Bob Hoskins, who also makes a small
appearance in "Romeo") as well as a few shorts (the 70-minute "Small
Time" and the 10-minute "Where's the Money, Ronnie?") has already
created his own inimitable style. "Romeo," like his other films, finds
a niche somewhere between the documentary-like, working-class
atmosphere of Ken Loach and the "Mean Streets" reality of the early
Martin Scorsese pictures.
But this movie does not have that American movie intensity, in
which everyone's trying to make money or get ahead. This movie's a
real British experience. Life isn't a get-rich challenge, it's an
unscripted waiting room. You just get older and more sullen. The
characters don't act so much as kill time. Born of this cultural
ennui, Morell roams like a predator. His obsession for Ladine seems
endless, even though she rejects him after a first date. And yet
Morell's also rather endearing, which keeps Romeo hanging on.
Meadows, who wrote this film with childhood friend and creative
partner Paul Fraser, simply follows his instinct when it comes to
filmmaking. Consequently, "Romeo" proceeds with an episodic pace, full
of narrative twists and turns that clearly are not pretested by a
Hollywood committee. Things feel sort of strange and original all at
once. So if some of this movie's odd turns including Morell's bizarre
evolution from rather endearing to rather alarming throw you for a
loop, well, that's Meadows's creative inner workings at work. And more
power to his idiosyncratic view of the world or English cul de sac,
where odd birds like Morell are allowed to take flight.
"A Room for Romeo Brass" (R, 90 minutes) Contains obscenity, violence
and sexual situations.