After testifying against her abusive father, fifteen year old Shelly, played by Lauren McQueen, finds herself rehoused on a meagre estate she can barely call home. A petty thief, she spends her days roaming the estate and docklands in search of opportunities. When she attracts the attention of estate loan shark and groomer Mikey Finnegan, played by Stephen Lord, Shelly finds herself thrust under the watchful gaze of a mysterious stranger, Rachel, played by Waterloo Road’s Brogan Ellis. As Shelly’s relationship with Mikey develops, so does Rachel’s fixation with Shelly. The shock-revelation that Shelly’s father is given early parole forces her to make a decision that will alter the fates of all three of them forever. Set amid the desolate beauty of a post-industrial wasteland, The Violators is a meditation on the meaning of home, and the potency and fragility of young girls’ sexuality.
There are a small number of films that The Violators can be compared to. 2009’s Fish Tank pushes the boundaries, in where a fifteen year old girl’s life changes when her Mum brings her new boyfriend home. 2003’s Thirteen by Catherine Hardwicke, is where a girl’s relationship is tested when she spiral’s into a life of drugs, petty crime and sex. The problem isn’t the fact The Violators is shot on a micro budget or it carries a controversial plot. The problem is it doesn’t push the boundaries hard enough for the viewer to be shocked with an impact. These types of film need to challenge the audience but sadly the film has too much ambiguity. It holds back, being discreet with the sexuality, and, unfortunately, playing it too safe doesn’t always work.
The main merit of the film is the performance of Lauren McQueen. Our anti-heroine is perfectly cast as she carries the film brilliantly. The camera loves her and McQueen shows a strong-minded, vulnerable beauty, in where the audience sides with her as well as sympathise. The hardship and desperation she goes under, is intriguing. Should she be seduced by the forty- something Mikey and should she surrender to his promises of looking after her, on the condition of what she has to do for him? Shelly can almost be compared to Pride and Prejudice’s Charlotte Collins’ character. She is someone who is so desperate to be looked after that she will settle for what is the nearest best thing. Obviously this is not the answer and the viewer will desire a happy outcome for her. To see her character transgress and hope for her happiness is a worthy journey to view.
Mainstream film is embraced by the majority of people, when really independent film making should be treated with the same respect. If the performer is able to deliver 110% acting credibility, shouldn’t this talent be viewed for that reason alone? First time director/screenwriter Helen Walsh has created a dark story based on female sexuality and combined it with the theme of abuse, desperation and child grooming to a fairly effective standard. The director knows what she wants which is not to make our anti-heroine a victim and accentuate that she’s a fighter no matter what tragic circumstance she may encounter.
As a final point don’t expect any controversy of female sexuality or the polemic features that Brooke Shield’s once achieved with this type of character. Expect a well-made micro budget film that tells a story of family in hardship and what the people around them will do to help or sabotage their cause and situation. The film is shot in a gritty, grainy way, for the greater good of British independent film making.
The Violators is in cinemas 17th June 2016.
Director: Helen Walsh
Writer: Helen Walsh
Stars: Lauren McQueen, Brogan Ellis, Stephen Lord
Runtime 101 mins