"London to Brighton" is certainly tough, hard viewing: with a plot that boldly follows a prostitute who finds an eleven year old girl to spend time with one of her pimp's clients, the film is often a decent into darkness. While I understand that not every film can be cheerful, this is certainly not going to be everyone's cup of tea. Still, I did manage to find certain aspects of this gritty film gripping.
The prostitute is Kelly (Lorraine Stanley) whose pimp Derek (Johnny Harris) demands she find a young girl for one of his clients. Kelly discovers a runaway girl named Joanne (Georgia Groome) who agrees to go with Kelly in exchange for some comfort items. When Joanne - along with Kelly - meet with the pedophile at his home things take a turn and Kelly and Joanne flee for safety to Brighton. When the pedophile's son, Stuart (Sam Spruell) finds out what happened, he sends Derek to find Kelly and Joanne.
What makes this film moderately watchable is the way Paul Andrew Williams handles the direction and the storytelling. From the first scene, where Kelly and Joanne burst into a dingy bathroom, frantic and in Kelly's case beaten, you can't help but wonder where they've come from what kind of trouble is following them. While I wouldn't call this film consistently engaging, it certainly does keep a decent pace as it follows Kelly and Joanne from their harrowing experience on their way to Brighton where they hope to seek refuge. Of course, if making it to refuge was the only thing driving the two female leads, then this story would have been something entirely different.
Throughout the story we're left thinking about that opening scene, all the while learning how Kelly came to know Joanne and what propels them to run. The storytelling is handled very well here with the pieces of their story coming together nicely with flashbacks and well-written dialogue. For me, the redeeming part of this film wasn't always the "what happened to these girls" aspect, but rather the relationship they form. While the film does otherwise manage to make you feel for Joanne and Kelly and hope for their safety, the point is lost in horrifying circumstances that could have otherwise been left out in a story truly focused on their shared experience.
Still, it must be said that what keeps me from all together disliking this film are Stanley and Groome's abilities. Because the two do manage to earn sympathy, it's tough to watch the grim journey that they find themselves forced to undertake. The film is a raw, harrowing look at emotion and hurt that comes to the surface in difficult times and while I didn't care for it overall, it does certainly have powerful (although again, harshly so) moments. Though I can't recommend it for anything more, the film does offer solid performances, which do certainly result in some genuinely emotional moments. Still, a tough watch.
Video & Audio: E1 Entertainment presents the film in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The presentation is fairly standard, with satisfactory sharpness and detail. The film has a rather gritty look (although that is intentional) and the transfer handles it well. A couple of minor instances of edge enhancement and a few specks are seen on the print, but the picture otherwise appeared clean. Colors looked subdued and cool, which isn't unexpected, given the material. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack remained clean and clear, but as one can expect from a dialogue-driven film like this, surrounds remained silent for most of the proceedings.
"Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Paul Andrew Williams, Lorraine Stanley, Johnny Harris and Director of Photography Christopher Ross" This is a straightforward and informative commentary that adds a decent amount of insight into the film and the production, as well as some stories regarding making the film.
"Behind The Scenes" A behind the scene look at making the film with interviews and lots of footage of between filming.
"Q&A" The filmmaker and the cast gather together to answer several questions about the film including the inspiration, budget, direction and more. At around 24 minutes, this question and answer segment from Curzon Cinema Soho, London in 2006 is a nice edition to the DVD.
Also included on the DVD are Georgia Groome's audition tape, Deleted Scenes, Trailer, an alternate ending and a brief selection of outtakes.
Final Thoughts: "London to Brighton" is a tough, raw film, but the powerful performances and fine direction make the film a worthwhile rent only for those in the mood for a (very) dark drama.