Director: Peter Mullan
Starring: Connor McCarron, Greg Forrest, Joe Szula, Mhairi Anderson,. UK. 2h 4m
There’s no doubt that whenever Peter Mullan is in front or behind the camera there’s some kinds of magic occurring, one of the least talked about and yet most cherished and influential actors/directors in the UK, this personal project about a young boys decent reom Academic glory to Violent Street Culture has to be one of his deeper shining titles.
NEDS is a tragic drama about a young and gifted boy who’s obsession is with the kids from the wrong side of the tracks and his own inner anger help carve his future. Directed and co-starred by the british Meistero Peter Mullan, who in my opinion can do no wrong, NEDs is one of his top films as Mullans nostalgic eye behind the camera sets the scene for the most realistic British coming of age drama, something a lot of people wouldn’t want to face but admittedly couldn’t deny is plausible and engrossing.
Mullan’s introspective of a down trodden retro Scotland is so on point and detailed, his keen eye sparks a profound sense of nostalgia and in the case of NEDS there’s a frustrating sense conjured up by this boy’s refusal to better himself.
Neds is bright, a bit too bright but while excelling in the classroom he also had a lot street smarts and and an inherent taste for violence, brought on from a childhood of watching his father beat his mother, and somehow in the mess festering around him he finds friends, mostly from a gang that’ supports his brother. NEDS, which were lead to believe means Non Educated Delinquents, as cited in the movie, but scotts worldwide are swearing it has a much older legal meaning, but whatever this history and terminology Neds or Chavs are young people with a chip of their shoulder, and urges to make society pay.
For the most part Neds takes a hugely different non stereotypical route through the streets of Scotland and life of young gifted John (McCarron) an overarching purging of the soul of director Peter Mullan, whose past is laced through this difficult drama, playing the role of his own father this apotheosis of maturity and reflection.
You want a ned? I’ll give you a fucking ned.
The lead, McCarron does an exemplary job as a thug, and just about carries off his classroom brilliance. Watching his decline is both horrowing and sad, but it’s hard not to see him turning into a young Ray Winston in Scum. Maybe this is a fitting origin story? It’s an interesting story, looking beyond the grimey street faces and realising that some of those boys we label as thugs, might have a brain and smoe intelligence, but just prefer to act like they don’t.
There’s a cathartic moment where John has had enough of his fathers antics, now plans to take his life, expecting a fight he finds his father almost on bended knee ready for the death blow, the violence shifting from father to son. Another moving artistic moment is the very end, it gives away no spoilers to mention but it features John walking alone through a pride of lions, a powerful metaphor for the youth’s passage from adolescence to adulthood, and possibly into the adult we find later in Tyrannosaur (2011)?
Most of the time, John kinda sits back at home watching his dysfunctional family struggle and fight, a power struggle between his parents often results in his mother taking a beating from her husband in order to save John but despite the faults the family stick together and are proud of Neds achievements, despite his trouble background the boy if gifted, but can’t shake the streets from this blood. With an older brother who’s a bit of a Face of the Estate, watching his violent father destroy his household mentally and physically and with his brilliant mind, John steps up the game and raises the bar. At school he’ll reel off Latin and equally dazzle and irritate his tutors but on the streets the young man’s urges for violence and gang warfare is a dangerous and bloody hobby but it’s the kind of antics he gets ??? full attention, running around with a blade and taking on whole estates there’s only one way this brilliant genius is going to end up….
Related: My Name Is Joe (1998), Young Adam (2003), This is England (2006), Tyrannosaur (2011), Ray and Liz (2018), England is Mine (2017)
Lists: Behind the Front Door UK Vol 1
Spotlight: Peter Mullan