The Be All And End All (2009)
The Be All And End All is a warm, funny and poignant tale about friendship and the pressures of teenage life. Robbie and Ziggy are two 15 year old Liverpudlian lads who like most boys their age, are fixated on losing their virginity. A family holiday with Robbie’s mum and dad almost garners result for Robbie, but a bout of sudden illness gets in his way. On the way home, Robbie collapses and is rushed to hospital, where it soon emerges he has a fatal heart condition and doesn’t have long let to live. As Robbie tries to come to terms with this overwhelming revelation, he decides his last wish is to not die a virgin and so he tasks Ziggy to make this dream come true and help him go out with a bang.
It’s a delicate subject matter to tackle, the terminal illness of a young child, and it’s even harder to tae that subject and inject humour into the proceedings. It would be very easy to veer into inappropriate crassness or even into mushy sentimentality, but director Bruce Webb successfully strikes the right note and balances well the emotional impact of the terrible news with the humour to be found in Robbie’s final wish.
Robbie is of course the unfortunate anchor of the film, the young lad soon to be taken before his time, but it is his mate Ziggy, played by newcomer Eugene Byrne, who is often the centre of our attention. It’s touching to see Zig’s dedication and commitment to his friend and Byrne shows great maturity by providing a performance that veers from almost slapstick humour to crushing reality in a very short amount of time. The middle third of the film sees Zig doing whatever he can to find a willing candidate to assist Robbie in achieving his last wish, but the girls at school don’t take too kindly to his approaches and there’s a couple of failed excursions to massage parlours and red-light districts. The lengths that he will go to increase as the film go on and soon it becomes as much a mission for Zig himself as it does for his mate.
There is also an important side-story running through the film with regards to Ziggy’s absent father and his unknown whereabouts. After witnessing Robbie’s sudden demise and the trauma this causes his family, Ziggy realises he doesn’t want to leave it until things are too late and so he decides to track his dad down, much to his mum’s disproval.
The film has a distinctly British feel to it and despite its slightly surreal maguffin, it is extremely realistic and presents an authentic portrayal of two young lads and their unbreakable friendship. The two leads were both relatively inexperienced actors, but Webb really gets the best out of them and the rest of the cast, including Liza Tarbuck as the friendly nurse who sympathises with Ziggy’s desire to help his friend.
The final scenes in particular are incredibly moving and like the film as a whole are handled extremely well. Touching and often very funny, this is a Brit-comedy-drama that’s well worth seeking out.
Director: Bruce Webb
Writers: Tony Owen, Steve Lewis
Stars: Neve McIntosh, Josh Bolt, Liza Tarbuck
Runtime: 100 min