Shot on digital video, Duncan Roy’s ambitious independent feature employs three separate frames of images to provide multiple perspectives on this compelling story of a working class Essex lad who inveigles his way into high society. Set in the late 1970s, the film follows Dean (Matthew Leitch of Band of Brothers) as he escapes from his abusive father and moves to London, where he’s taken in by a middle-aged gay man. He later tracks down his mother’s former employer, Lady Gryffoyn (Diana Quick), who takes a shine to him and makes an offer of employment. Thrown out of the house by Lady Gryffoyn’s son, Dean steals the man’s identity cards and moves to Paris. Posing as an aristocrat, he soon finds himself the darling of the posh set, but gets deeper and deeper into debt as he lives the life of Lord Riley.
This unlikely adventure may sound like a variation on Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, but in fact it’s based on Roy’s own past as ‘the phoney credit-card earl’, an experience which eventually landed him in prison. The film represents a bold and imaginative response to a life of duplicity and uncertainty. It’s a Jekyll-and-Hyde portrait of English society, set in the Thatcher era and concentrating on the links between class and identity, the personal and the political. Roy provides a candid and often very funny account of a peculiarly English malaise. The use of the triptych screen is sometimes innovative and always fascinating, but it’s the story and performances that carry Roy’s bold and genuinely absorbing film.
U.K., 2002. Colour. Anamorphic. Dolby digital stereo. 123 mins.

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