One of the best received British films of 2006, London To Brighton was inspired by a short film, Royalty, shot by director Paul Andrew Williams in 2001. Williams wanted to build on the characters and plot of Royalty to produce an effective, dark-edged thriller set in Britain, writing the impressive script over a single weekend and catching the attention of producer team Alistair Clark and Rachel Robey. A tough shoot in terms of cost, working hours and dedication, there is no doubt that the budget restrictions and general air of desperation contribute enormously to the pace and energy of the film.
The story begins suddenly as two girls, Kelly and Joanne, burst into a rundown toilet, blood, make-up and tears streaming down their faces. A series of gradually unfolding flashbacks establish their history together: it transpires that sinister pimp Derek has asked prostitute Kelly to find him an underage girl for one of his clients, a well-known gangster by the name of Duncan Allen. Initially Kelly takes a moral stand, but threats of violence from Derek force a change of heart. Scouring stations and alleyways, Kelly stumbles upon homeless youth Joanne, persuading her to meet with Derek. Both girls are taken to Duncan Allen’s house: scared and naive, all Joanne can think of is the money. But in the event she is unable to go through with it: she panics and defends herself, and the two flee on the train to Brighton, leaving Duncan Allen bleeding to death in the bathroom. But Duncan’s son, Stuart, is a very dangerous man, and demands answers. He tracks down Derek the pimp, informing him that he either finds Kelly and Joanne, or faces the consequences.
What follows is a descent into the darkest despair, an edge-of-the-seat chase as Derek tracks down the two girls, finally catching up with them at a house in Brighton. The stage is set for a genuinely surprising twist ending, and an unexpected shift in sympathies. The characters remain unpredictable to the very last scene, keeping the audience involved and guessing. The film’s tone is dark, uneasy and compelling, transforming a deceptively simple story into the successful British thriller the director was aiming for.
At times Williams utilises a powerful documentary aesthetic, employing shaky, naturalistic camera movements. This air of authenticity is enhanced by believable performances from all the lead actors. Johnny Harris is utterly convincing as the brutal, heartless Derek, and Lorraine Stanley gives a genuinely realistic performance as the downtrodden Kelly. Georgia Groome, making her debut, faces a real challenge with the part of Joanne, but displays enormous maturity and understanding in the role of this bitter, helpless runaway. A notable DVD extra outlines the director’s search for his perfect Joanne, before settling on Groome: a wise choice, as she proves herself an exceptionally talented young actor. Williams began his own career in front of the camera, an experience evidenced by his sympathetic direction and perfect eye for casting.
The film achieved widespread critical acclaim, picking up prizes at both the Dinard and Raindance festivals, and the New Director Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. London to Brighton may be difficult viewing, but it proves itself essential for any film connoisseur: a major modern contribution to British cinema.