If Oscars were given out on a worldwide basis, 12-year old Harry Eden, the
emotional core of this penetrating study of the family side of the drug
culture in London, would win it hands down. His shadings of harsh
disappointment amid valiant efforts as family caretaker come from intuition
of the highest level.
His character's situation begins with a shocker. It's morning, and 10-year
old Paul (Eden) is putting breakfast together for mom, who's a late sleeper.
The last thing he prepares for the tray is a hypodermic needle with mom's
fix, or "gear," as she calls it. What a good and thoughtful boy. Only, when
Mel (Molly Parker) discovers what her eldest son has done, she's none too
happy about it, precocity and thoughtfulness be damned.
But, being alarmed by her boy's involvement isn't enough to make her quit.
Now that she knows he knows, however, she does try. She has Paul lock her in
her room while she goes cold turkey, and he resists the pleas and demands she
warned him she'd make. He's stalwart, courageous and upstanding against his
mother's screams to be let out of her room, her cajoling, her threats, her
accusations. Only it's more than an overnight task, and when Paul is drawn
away from the house by an urgent need elsewhere, resolve turns to failure.
Boyfriend Lenny (David Wenham) shows up to scoop Mel back into his world of
the quick fix, and he sees to it that she stays stoned and dependent.
Paul picks up on a friendship with Louise, (Keira Knightly) a wispy
restaurant waitress who treats him pretty much as an equal. But, she's a
wastrel herself, and fades from his scene. The central drama revolves around
the threat of Mel's parents (Geraldine McEwand and Karl Johnson) trying to
take custody of Paul away from his junkie mom. This brings in welfare
services for a contest over Paul, while this determined kid rats Lenny out to
Detective Inspector French (Gary Lewis). Together, they attempt to catch
Lenny red-handed in a drug deal.
Director Gillies MacKinnon's sordid picture of drug-influenced life in the
East-end of London is a derivative look into the wasting disease of addiction
as it affects otherwise decent people--something we've seen done better. But,
by centering on the chronic presence of drugs as something kids can't avoid,
and the portrayal of boyhood suffering by this amazing young actor, it breaks
out of the ordinary for the genre. Through him, we develop sympathetic regard
for mom, as well-- a part agonizingly better portrayed by Molly Parker than
written by Alison Hume.
As a fan of Keira Knightly, it's her presence here that drew me to this, but
it's Harry Eden who makes the lasting impression.
~~ Jules Brenner