Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr Viber
Trending On Empire
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The 50 Best Films Of 2014
Review Of The Year 2014
Roar Power
Jurassic World unleashed on iTunes
Halo 5 Guardians
The Master Chief returns
Empire Blogs
Under The Radar

Back to all blogs Comment Now

San Sebastian Film Festival 2010: Peter Mullan's Neds

Posted on Monday September 20, 2010, 21:01 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
San Sebastian Film Festival 2010: Peter Mullan's Neds

The San Sebastian Film Festival, in northern Spain, has been in full swing for three nights now, in that time playing host to Julia Roberts, giving Roman Polanski a critics prize for The Ghost and screening a film that I fear I have now missed (the next screening is on Friday, in Korean with Basque subtitles!). That film is Kim Ji-Woon's I Saw The Devil, which I hoped would be the surprise film in Venice, and apparently is a serial-killer thriller so violent that even the Korean censor – who has given the thumbs-up to Park Chan-Wook's work – had kittens while watching it. But, although they like Julia Roberts, her smile and her hairdo, San Sebastian audiences don't mind that sort of thing. I once saw a film here in which Marisa Paredes played a lower-class mother who was forever being walloped by her sadistic neo-Nazi, heroin-dealing sons, and when the lights went up, there was a very serious but enthusiastic round of applause, as if we'd just been watching Notes On A Scandal.

Peter Mullan's Neds, then, is not a test for this audience, and its themes – violence, family, religion, redemption – are likely to find this challenging film quite a few friends. The most apparent thing about Neds, right from the off, is how beautifully cast it is. Admirers of Good Dick, no pun intended, will be pleased to see Marianna Palka as what she is: a Glaswegian who's found a new life in America. It's a small role but important; Palka plays Beth, whose nephew John (Gregg Forest) thinks the world of her. It's 1972, and we're in Glasgow. John is a smart kid, leaving primary school with a lot of promise, but, in an almost Shakespearean flourish, his destiny is foretold on his last day there. John meets a Ned – it stands for Non-Educated Delinquent – who promises John that his first day at big school will be misery. But what this Ned doesn't know is that John's brother Benny is a local celebrity, a violent hooligan and a hero to the local gang, known as the Young Car-D.

Now, what I truly loved about this movie is that it's very unusual to see a recidivist hero, since John starts out as a naïve, good egg and seems genuinely bent on making a better life for himself. It's also unusual (and I hope both actors who play John don't mind me saying this) to have a hero who looks so ordinary. And the point Mullan makes rather well in the first hour, at least in the context of 70s Britain, is about how potential means nothing if a human being doesn't have the encouragement to grow. It begins with the young John finding he's been put in the wrong class and demanding that the headmaster promote him to the top class, where he belongs. But within just a few years, John (now played by Conor McCarron), realises that his ambition is misplaced. He's from a poor family, going nowhere, and when society frowns on him, John decides to give in and just conform to type.

This half of the movie works best; it's like Blackadder's Christmas Special but for real, and it's what separates Neds from This Is England. Where Shane Meadows' film is about an innocent abroad, Mullan's equally part-autobiographical counterpoint is about anger: where it goes and what it does, and how much worse it can be when combined with intelligence. The second half of the movie, though, didn't quite work for me. Mullan's self-penned script is perhaps too ambitious to sustain Neds' two-hour running time, and the film ends on a peculiar note that somewhat overplays the film's already stretched use of metaphor. But, for this, Neds should be applauded rather than lambasted; Mullan has tried, and succeeded, in making an anti-violence gang movie from a former gang-member's perspective, and its final, complex message – that there is grace in simply not using violence rather than renouncing it – makes it stand apart from the likes of Ken Loach's Sweet 16. Neds screens twice at the LFF on October 20 and again on 22; if you can take it, try to make it.

Login or register to comment.

Currently No Comments

Log in below, or register to post comments
Remember Me:


Empire States (444)

Under The Radar (335)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (36)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


The 9 Most Terrifying Things At Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights
By James Dyer

Screen To Stage: The Hobbit Stars
By Helen O'Hara

Screen To Stage: Shakespeare In Love
By Helen O'Hara

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
By Ali Plumb

Pete Docter And Jonas Rivera Talk Pixar's Inside Out
By James White

Miss Game Of Thrones Already? Here's The Solution…
By Dan Jolin

H. R. Giger: An Empire Tribute
By Ian Nathan

How Edible Cinema Finally Allows You To Eat A Movie
By Ali Plumb

Why Do People Think Captain America Is Boring?
By Helen O'Hara

Are iPads And Smartphones Changing The Face Of Filmmaking?
By Ben Kirby


Chinese Propaganda Is Hitting Hollywood
"Purchase Reverbnation Plays"  tofifi808
Read comment

50 Shades Of What Now?
"Just thought I'd return to this as FSOG is now out at cinemas. I haven't read the books or seen the "  Cookiedough
Read comment

8 (Possible) Reasons John Carter Bombed At The Box Office
"The trailer gave me the feeling that this would be something of a 6+ family movie. And a guy on an e"  my5p
Read comment

Screen To Stage: Shakespeare In Love
"Have just re-watched this twice over the past few weeks and forgot how fantastic it was. I'm now des"  fire_and_water5025
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
"This looks unbelievably good... wish I could afford to go!"  Roo
Read comment

Miss Game Of Thrones Already? Here's The Solution…
"Nice to know Martin enlisted another author to help in his world-building. Time to get acquainted wi"  Imperion
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
" The original Hogwarts section and what was duelling dragons (has now"  Sexual Harassment Panda
Read comment

Miss Game Of Thrones Already? Here's The Solution…
"Actually i recomend The Foucault Pendulum for several reasons, in the first place it explores the es"  andresfelipeurb
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
"A great sneak peek, Ali. Aside from your confusion as to where Diagon Alley/King's Cross and Hogsmea"  bruciebonus
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
"im due to go in October this year and having been before, i can honestly say i cannot wait. I agree "  kopite
Read comment


Movies’ Most Quotable Lines

'It's Just A Bit Of Fun': Why Defensive Fans Are Bad News For Movies

Competitive Geek Baiting: Or, How To Start A Fanboy Fight

The Avatar Backlash: Evaluatin' The Hater-atin'

The Complete List Of Tired Movie Cliches

Your Favourite Animated Film

Note To Hollywood: How To Get People To Switch To Blu-Ray

Food For Thought

The Ten Moviegoing Commandments

Just The Facts, Ma’am

Damon Wise (299)
Helen O'Hara (181)
James Dyer (87)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Phil de Semlyen (21)
Owen Williams (21)
Simon Braund (6)
Nev Pierce (5)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
David Parkinson (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
Ian Nathan (1)

Empire's Best Horror Films For Halloween
An unlucky thirteen triple-bills

Emily Blunt Talks Sicario
On the five-star thriller, puke acting and taking Tom Cruise to The Box

Denis Villeneuve Talks Sicario
On his cartel thriller and the upcoming Blade Runner sequel

Tomorrowland: The Viewing Guide
Brad Bird talks through his sci-fi adventure, scene by scene

Empire Meets Ridley Scott
The great director on The Martian, Blade Runner 2 and the Prometheus sequels

Life On Mars: Trips To The Red Planet
A dozen of cinema's Martian misadventures

10 Star Wars: The Force Awakens Toys You’ll Want To Own
Falcon quad copter? BB-8 Sphero? We’re already asking for pay raises…

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Empire print magazine

Delivered to your door – with exclusive subscriber only covers each month! Save money today and

Subscribe now!

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Empire digital magazine

Exclusive and enhanced content – get instant access via your iPad or Android device! Save money today and

Subscribe now!

Subscribe now and save up to 63%
Print, Digital & Package options available Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire Digital Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  Digital Edition  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)