Introduced from three separate angles the story of Gypo (2005), a British Dogme-inspired production, concerns a low-income family from Kent and a duo of Eastern European asylum seekers. Director Jan Dun takes a great risk in betting on a motley crew of characters, some less than satisfying, and a dialog which is largely improvised. The result is watchable and at times engrossing picture which could have been substantially better.
Helen (Pauline McLynn), a fortysomething housewife, is living a life full of daily disappointments. Her family is constantly involved in abusive quarrels which more often than not end as abruptly as they start. When she encounters the beautiful Tasha (Chloe Sirene) and her mother (Rula Lenska), both refugees of Roma decent, all of a sudden she finds a cause worthy of her time.
Paul (Paul McGann), Helen's husband, is convinced that the reason why there are no high paying jobs in the area where the family lives has plenty to do with the influx of Eastern European immigrants from recent years. When Helen invites Tasha for a dinner he attacks the Gypo and makes it obvious how he feels.
Tasha and her mother reside in a temporary shelter on the outskirts of the town awaiting their passports to arrive. The duo hopes that once they receive their UK citizenships life will be better. Unfortunately, Tasha and her mother are attacked by a group of racist teenagers who seem to carry plenty of the frustration Paul has.
Despite some notable flaws Gypo is a film that successfully captures the gradual disintegration of the Kent family in the middle of this uncomfortable ordeal. The decision to have the story introduced in three different takes pays off rather well with the exception of an unnecessary lesbian affair in the final fragment which puts a strain on an otherwise steady pacing. As expected the hand-held camera work provides an additional rough feel to the story while at the same time the actors comfortably play their characters.
While the picture will likely have a great reception overseas, where the issue of immigration after the EU expansion has become a hot topic of discussion, in the US Gypo will likely remain a low-profile arthouse affair which only those with serious interest in British independent cinema will appreciate. Given the limited distribution deal Gypo is attached to it is also likely to predict that many will simply miss the opportunity to see this strong effort on the big screen unless of course they make it a point to track down the DVD release.
In 2005 the film won the British Independent Film Award for Best Achievement in Production. During the same year Gypo was also the winner of the Best First Feature Award at the San Francisco International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. In 2006 the film won the Special Mention Award for Best Video at the Torino International Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival, Italy.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in as aspect ratio of 1.33:1, unlike the anamorphic 16:9 enhancement the back cover for the DVD introduces, the print for this film is in questionable condition. Not because there is plenty of grain or lighting inconsistencies (which appear natural for the Dogme films), but because I have every reason to suspect that the Wolfe Pack have simply copied the existing R2 release of this film and converted it to NTSC. While with this specific film this certainly isn't such a big issue to frown over as one could easily pretend that the ghosting and murky image are part of the film's composition the fact remains that a better conversion should have been performed. As far as I am concerned the video presentation is a letdown. (For the record I was provided only with a screener-copy of Gypo and not a finished version of this disc).
How Does the DVD Sound?
Introduced with a DD 2.0 English track the audio sounds fine! Dialog is easy to follow and I did not detect any obvious flaws such as noise, hissing, or audio-drops. Unfortunately the R1 disc does not offer optional English subtitles and those in need of such (and there is a good reason such should have been included) will be disappointed.
Despite of the fact that the back cover of the R1 DVD indicates a Featurette, Trailer, and a Director's commentary none of these extras were present on this screener for me to comment on. This is quite an unfortunate occurrence as I was truly looking forward to having a peek at the Featurette and specifically listen to the commentary by the director.
With a few minor exceptions Gypo is indeed a British production worthy of your attention. Unlike the wave of trendy gangster dramas copying CGI-infatuated Hollywood coming out of the Island lately Jan Dun's film is an alarming and thought-provoking piece of cinema with solid performances. A better promotion for this film is needed.