Chicken is an intense little drama that focuses on a young lad named Richard (Scott Chambers). Richard has learning difficulties, acting far younger than his fifteen years, and spends his days “farming” the area around the grimy little caravan that he stays in with his older brother (Polly, played by Morgan Watkins). Things start looking up when Richard befriends a girl named Annabell (Yasmin Paige), but it turns out to be only a temporary upswing before some abuse and pain (both physical and emotional) eradicates the good feeling.
The biggest problem I had with this movie is that I didn’t like the characters. Any of them. Well, that was the case for the first third of the movie. The script by Chris New alternates between light and sweet, when Richard is occupying his time alone, and harsh and uncomfortable, whenever Polly is onscreen. Unfortunately, it wasn’t creating anything for me to feel a strong reaction to. And even worse, when Annabell came into the story, I was still completely unaffected. But it started to win me around, slowly but surely.
The main performances are all fantastic, with Chambers being the easy standout. He helps to shape Richard as a strange, vulnerable, naive young boy. Watkins, on the other hand, is given a character just as ready to speak with his hands than his words. And Paige gets to start off from a selfish, spoilt place before moving to the other end of the spectrum.
Director Joe Stephenson does well, using a lot of camerawork that gets uncomfortably close to the main characters whenever tensions are rising. That keeps viewers on edge, but also helps to maintain the claustrophobic atmosphere for the scenes that take place in the small caravan. He also doesn’t worry about helping viewers acclimatise to the world being shown onscreen. No sir. This starts, you have to quickly realise what kind of lives these people are leading, and that’s it.
Which makes it a shame that his approach makes for a bumpy opening act before gaining strength throughout the rest of the movie. The final 15-20 minutes are so powerful, and well handled, that the whole thing moved up a notch or two in my estimation. I decided that the tougher scenes to endure earlier on were worth sitting through to feel the impact of the finale. Not everyone will agree, however, and I should note that I won’t be rushing to rewatch it, despite its eventual potency.
Chicken is screening at EIFF 2015 on 27th June.
DIRECTOR: JOE STEPHENSON
WRITER: CHRIS NEW (BASED ON THE PLAY BY FREDDIE MACHIN)
STARS: SCOTT CHAMBERS, YASMIN PAIGE, MORGAN WATKINS
RUNTIME: 86 MINS APPROX