It may have been produced on a shoestring budget and be predominantly improv-based, but Brakes offers up one hell of a cast. Julian Barratt, Paul McGann, Julia Davis, Kerry Fox and Noel Fielding all star in this self-styled ‘anti-romcom’, set across different London locations. Split into two parts, the first half of the film shows various couples in the final moments of their relationships as they disintegrate. Cut to the second half and we get to witness how each of them began.
As often with ensemble films such as this, certain stories work far better than others. Where some are just fleetingly visited, with no real connection ever made with the audience, others manage poignancy and some big laughs. Davis turns up the crazy and gives the stand-out performance of the film as a wannabe actress who has found herself with a much older director. Hilarious and vulnerable, it’s hard not to side with her as she tries all different measures to get her big break. Julian Barratt brings his own brand of offbeat comedy to his role as the scarily obsessive Elliot who has fallen head-over-heels after a drunken one night stand, a feeling which is far from reciprocated.
Sadly, the low budget becomes hugely noticeable at certain points, with different quality footage jarring badly – sometimes in the middle of scenes. Locations are all either public or easily accessible spaces, which often works fine when making this truly feel like a piece about London, but at times makes it just look like a student film.
Definitely one for fans of British comedy (in particular The Mighty Boosh), writer-director Mercedes Grower’s first feature film has a big heart despite its small budget. The script is wobbly at times and certain scenarios feel contrived, but Brakes manages to be charming nonetheless.
CAST: Julian Barratt, Julia Davis, Noel Fielding, Mercedes Grower, Paul McGann, Seb Cardinal, Kerry Fox
DIRECTOR: Mercedes Grower
WRITER: Mercedes Grower
SYNOPSIS: An improv-based dark comedy set in London.