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Hollow Reed Review

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A pair of eight-year-old feet careering through undergrowth to the sound of panicked, grunting breaths. Oliver Wyatt (Sam Bould) arrives at his father's home streaked in blood, with a thin bullyboy story. What emerges is a Chinese puzzle of emotional prickliness.

★★★★

Despite an indecipherably trendy moniker leading, at first sight, into yet another worthy-but-dull British film ramming issues down our throat from somewhere in "ordinary" England, this small, focused almost-thriller is a real find. Its subject matter - criss-crossing homosexuality, child abuse, divorce and violence - isn't exactly chockful of belly laughs, but without getting all stewed up with PC-ness, this manages both arthouse maturity and multiplex gutsiness with aplomb.

The opening salvo shocker, it emerges that Donovan is the father who left his wife (Richardson) when he fell for another man (Hart). The shattered Richardson, with custody of their only son, turns to slick Jason Flemying, a control freak who, scared by his own sorry childhood, beats the child in secret. Bould, mightily (and understandably) confused says nothing of his plight to anyone. As Donovan realises the truth to which the bitter Richardson has blinded herself, he tries in vain - and against the sour prejudice of British justice - to regain custody to protect his son.Acted with thorough conviction by all - Bould, so wantonly loveable it's almost cheating, is outstanding - and unfussily directed by Pope, the film is tellingly located in the middle-classhood of Bath. There are no laborious working class Loachisms here. By keeping you on tenterhooks through its twists and turns of prejudice and counter-prejudice and the horrors of abuse, it prises open issues of parenthood, custody, culpability and just what people can do when they are in pain.

Triteness rears its ugly head as Donovan finally takes matters into his own hands, but this is powerful stuff - a film where everybody is some kind of victim, and the biggest loser is the most innocent of them all. Charge up the tear ducts, they're going for a rough ride.

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