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“Red Road” (2007) Dir Andrea Arnold BBC2 and YouTube

A Glaswegian CCTV operative, whilst observing the flotsam and jetsam of everyday Estate life spies a man from her past. Can she resolve unfinished business? 

Red Road is the Lottery/BBC/UK Film Trust at it’s public ethos best as it gives a chance to an inexperienced director in former Timmy Mallett Wide Awake Club collaborator (yes, it’s true) Andrea Arnold pairing her up with similarly unknown writer Thomas Jensen to produce this intriguing and off beat drama. The Tories butchering of the Arts Council is in the best tradition of their philistine approach to Culture, which they see as the sole preserve of the Middle Classes.  

Intriguing is the key word, rather than gripping as the pace of the film is incredibly slow for the first 45 minutes or so. I didn’t mind as it showed a woman who was numb to the world and the human interactions that form part of daily life.


She goes to work observing the underbelly of New Labour’s forgotten, chaotic and marginalized NEET generation, comes home to a microwave meal and has functional sex with a married security guard in the back of his van fortnightly, on the dot.


She seems dead inside, and slowly and painfully we start to find out why. This part of the film could have been done equally well in twenty minutes giving us enough context for the rest of the piece.


The picture is a journey of understanding for the woman and her male protagonist as she comes to some kind of acceptance of her situation and perhaps finding the strength to move on.


Kate Dickie is outstanding in the lead role showing how tragedy, if left to fester can literally eat a person’s soul and leave them isolated, and existing in silent desperation.


There is one highly controversial scene in the film which I imagine caused a great deal of debate between Arnold and the censor, but is in context and though graphic is very necessary to our understanding of the characters and their motives.


Overall, I would have made changes to the structure of the film to give better pace, but good on Arnold for her bold, challenging approach.


As a purely side issue, the scenes of Jackie at work in a CCTV centre did cause me to reflect on the fact that we are the most watched society in the world, and I am still undecided on whether or not this is a good thing. Due to the lack of accountability that we have in the UK it’s impossible to know if such an intrusion is warranted.


Did it catch the Suffolk killer earlier than would have otherwise been the case? I would be interested to know how John Reid, the Labour Home Secretary most responsible for the roll out of CCTV justified such wide reaching surveillance as it goes against the Libertarian streak in UK culture.


About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.


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