Director: Vasco Alexandre
Starring: Elle Atkinson, Caroline Lazarus, David Price
Review Author: Tony
Synopsis: 9-year-old Ellie does her best to escape the abusive relationship between her mother and her mother’s latest partner. Luckily, the local dump provides a sanctuary for Ellie and her best friend, Pete, as they connect and build their own sanctuary away from life’s problems.
I’m delighted to announce a new entry to Spotlight for this month coming from first time filmmaker, Vasco Alexandre and his cast of fellow students from Middlesex University, London. Their debut short, Yard Kings, is a hard-hitting drama that covers the topic of domestic abuse through the eyes of children and how they find sanctuary within their imagination. Hats off to the crew for covering such an unsavory subject and still finding a human story at its heart with a message of hope.
Alexandre’s direction has to be commended as the film has a gritty, grubby look to it that reminded me of classic British dramas such as Nil by Mouth and The War Zone; both gripping dramas in their own right that cover unsavory stories. Perhaps it’s because I’m across the pond in Ireland where we share a more grounded outlook to life as most British People would, but I’ve always appreciated how their media lacks the sheen, eccentricities, and drama of American productions, a trope Yard Kings certainly embraces.
Elle Atkinson and David Price carry the film as we experience the aftermath and shock of abuse and abandonment on characters so young that they can barely make sense of it, but are deeply affected in their own way. For such young actors, they do a fantastic job of expressing the turmoil of their trauma, while also bringing levity to the story with their sense of adventure and friendship as they scour the local dump for materials to add to their fort/base/den.
The cinematography and camerawork is fantastic knowing when to close in on a character’s face for their reactions, and when to pan out to let a scene breath. This gives the actors a more visceral and physical performance, as we can tell what they are thinking by their expression rather than words. This is a particular hard balance to capture so this first time crew have already shown massive promise in the sound and camera department.
While it ends on a somewhat uplifting note that may leave others unfulfilled or without closure for such a rough theme, Yard Kings impresses on both a technical and narrative level delivering a multifaced story from a perspective unfamiliar to most of us.