A teenage boy growing up on a Midlands council estate befriends an awkward loner, much to the chagrin of the boy's best friend.
The brilliant TwentyFourSeven was a commercial dud, despite critical approbation, film festival hype and a note-perfect marketing campaign. Why? Because it was in black and white? Because it didn't have Julia Roberts in it? What are we, a nation of total Philistines?
Don't fret. Still in his 20s, Shane Meadows has plenty of time to turn into a bums-on-seats filmmaker - for now, let us be grateful that someone in the British film industry has ambitions above and beyond sentimentalising the working class or chasing the American dollar (or both). For those who have also seen his earlier, amateur work, Romeo Brass is instantly recognisable as A Shane Meadows Film - for its setting (Nottingham estate), its story (simple, domestic, free of allegory) and its style (naturalistic, often hilarious but with a serious core). It centres on two 13 year-old boys, one black, one crippled, Romeo (Shim) and Knocks (Marshall), alienated from their families and drifting. They befriend a childlike man in a van, Morell (Considine, beguiling in his first professional acting role), and the film traces their doomed relationship.
There are, once again, shades of Ken Loach in the painful portraits of fractured family life; there is no join-the-dots abuse here, but Romeo's father (Frank Harper, emerging as the new Ray Winstone) is estranged, and Knocks' dad (James Higgins) is an emotion-shy couch potato. As writers, Meadows and childhood pal Paul Fraser share Mike Leigh's ear for heard dialogue, which, mixed with partly improvised performances, brings a reality to the proceedings that makes it both extra-warm and extra-disturbing when it all goes off at the end.
Add a breezy indie soundtrack, an offputting bewigged cameo by Meadows in the chippy, and a sense of time and place to rival Gregory's Girl, and you've got a proper treat for lovers of real life.