Director Gillies MacKinnon’s keen storytelling abilities are as sharp as ever in this unromantic tale of the damage a young mother’s heroin addiction causes her 10-year-old son. Since Trainspotting hit mainstream screens, the images of heroin’s use have become a familiar sight. However, the story of Pure is uniquely harrowing because it is told from a child’s point of view. Paul’s natural hunger for his mother’s love is as painful to watch as her inability to respond, despite her evident desire to do so.
Following the death of her husband, Mel (Molly Parker) comes to rely on an old friend, Lenny (David Wenham), who is also a pimp and dealer. Soon Paul (Harry Eden) must take care of both his mother and his younger brother. The film’s intelligenceoits fine script, eloquent cinematography and subtle performancesois immediately established in the first scene, in which Paul brings his mother her ‘breakfast’ of cigarettes and heroin in bed. She has forgotten that it is his birthday. When Mel’s friend and fellow user dies, Paul must confront the fear that has been gathering in the pit of his stomach: having lost his father, his mother too may abandon him. He takes action with a child’s limitations and fierce heroism. Eden gives a truly heart-rending, unaffected interpretation of a boy attempting to deal with extreme stress: his huge eyes overwhelm his face and we writhe in the knowledge that his young mind is absorbing a good deal more than it can process. As his mother, Parker never strikes a false note in her muddled reactions to Paul’s pleas for love. While it does not shrink from the horrors of addiction, the purity of Pure is its sensitive exploration of the profound love and commitment between a mother and son, even in the most dire circumstance.
(U.K., 2002. Colour. Anamorphic. Dolby digital stereo. 96 mins.)

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