Hold Back the Night Review

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Charleen (Tremarco) runs away from home in the early hours, hooking up with dreadlocked crusty Declan (Stuart Sinclair Blyth). Accompanied by Killer the pit-bull and assisted by Sheila Hancock's terminally-ill Vera, who is making a pilgrimage to Orkney. As the healing journey unfolds, so do the circumstances that have made Charleen the selfish and unfaithful person she is.


Thorny subjects sometimes require thorny performances and there are few subjects more discomfiting than child abuse. That partly explains the balled fist of inarticulate rage, deep-seated pain, bitter self-loathing and foul-mouthed distrust that is Christine Tremarco's damaged Charleen, who must rank among the most unsympathetic characters that British cinema has seen in years. This is one of those brave, searing turns that is continually in danger of alienating the audience and, depending on your mood, could prove too bleak, distressing or relentless to watch.

Previously known for his rent-a-Cockney-psycho roles in, amongst others, The Firm and Face, actor turned director Phil Davis has made a raw, punchy, and oddly moving first feature which sensibly trusts Hancock's stirling acting and steadying influence to offset Tremarco's volatility and prevent the story from being consumed by mawkishness or outright misanthropy.

There are rough edges galore, including an obtrusive soundtrack, and as we never learn to love Tremarco's character, we're hard pushed to believe Declan's could either, but Davis has made a road movie of undeniable clout. That we are eventually shown hope at the end of a long tunnel is reason to see it through, but don't say you haven't been warned.