Magazine article Screen International

'Us and Them': SXSW Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Us and Them': SXSW Review

Article excerpt

Dir: Joe Martin. UK, 2017. 83 mins

British short film and documentary maker Joe Martin (Keep Quiet) makes his feature debut with this timely - if rampantly unsubtle - drama, which takes the idea of class warfare to its most savage extremes when a disillusioned young social activist infiltrates the home of a wealthy banker.

The appeal and name recognition of star Jack Roth - son of Tim - should help secure Us and Them modest distribution on home turf following its South by Southwest premiere, but its fiercely British identity may well limit international appeal, although global political unrest, and the resulting interest in socially conscious works, could see its message spread on specialist and VOD platforms.

As the film opens, well-to-do Philippa (Sophie Colquhoun) is bringing her fiance to her country pile family home to meet her banker dad Conrad (Tim Bentinck) and mum Margaret (Carolyn Backhouse). The culture clash is immediately obvious, and uncomfortable. 'What have you come as?' quips Conrad to the lad, whose downbeat jeans and trainer combo sticks out like a sore thumb in the opulent surroundings. A tense lunch soon descends into bitter argument, as Conrad decrees the unemployed boy unfit to marry his beloved daughter.

If this exchange feels awkward and surreal - snap judgements and personal barbs rapidly descend into outright violence - that's because nothing here is what it seems. It transpires, through one of several well-used flashbacks, that the boy now tussling with Conrad on the marble floor is not, in fact, Philippa's betrothed, but opportunistic chancer and self-proclaimed activist Danny (Jack Roth).

Along with his two ski-mask wearing friends, Tommy (Andrew Tiernan) and Sean (Daniel Kendrick), Danny has cooked up a plan to bluffhis way into Conrad's home, terrorise his family and film the whole thing as a social media stunt. "Our voices are ignored by the political and economic elite," says Danny to camera. "We seek to expose the wealthy to the same threats we experience in order for them to really change." But while Danny simply means to frighten Conrad into rethinking his priorities, things go rapidly downhill when Tommy deviates from the plan in order to get his hands on Conrad's life-changingly expensive watch collection. …

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