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Purely Belter

Inseparable friends Gerry (Chris Beattie) and Sewell (Greg McLane) are in their mid-teens and are older than their years. They hang out together as much as possible in an attempt to escape fairly dismal home lives. Sewell, a hulking giant of a boy, lives with an elderly man he claims is his father (Roy Hudd) but who is actually his grandfather, his parents having abandoned him long ago. The elder Sewell is senile to the point that he stuffs the Christmas turkey with plum pudding.

Gerry is even worse off. His alcoholic, violently abusive father (Tim Healy) makes periodic visits to the flat where the boy lives with his defeated, sickly mother (Charlie Hardwick) and single-mom sister (Tracy Whitwell); another sister, Bridget (Kerry Ann Christiansen) has left home and disappeared. The family has to keep moving to new apartments to hide from Gerry’s father, who, when he tracks them down, invariably steals their cash and few belongings before bashing them.

The boys rarely attend school, instead drifting around the mean but, as strikingly photographed by Andy Collins, strangely beautiful streets of Newcastle-on-Tyne plotting how to see their favorite soccer team, Newcastle United. What they really need are season tickets, but at £1,000 each, they’re out of the question. Still, the boys make a pledge to give up dope, cigarettes and other indulgences to save money to achieve their dream.

In a funny episode, Gerry is persuaded by a social worker to return to school for two weeks, his reward being two tickets to an upcoming football match. His contempt for the system is greatly increased when the tickets prove to be for a match played by a rival team, and he and Sewell, seething with embarrassment, wind up sitting among the enemy.

Pic spans a year in the lives of these enterprising and immensely likable youngsters, during which they try all manner of strategy to raise the cash they need, from dealing in secondhand goods, shoplifting and, as a last resort, robbing a bank o an act that results in surprising repercussions. During this period they adopt a stray dog, Sewell falls in love with pretty Gemma (Jody Baldwin) and gets her pregnant, Gerry encounters the tragically drugged-out Bridget but loses her again; and his mother is hospitalized with a severe respiratory illness.

Writer-director Herman, whose earlier films, Brassed Off and Little Voice, were well received, has another small winner in this familiar tale of a pair of underprivileged battlers trying to make their dreams come true. Mixture of comedy, tragedy and occasional poetry works well after a rather shaky start, largely thanks to the generous direction of the inexperienced but convincing young leads.

Suitable: age 15

UK, 2000
Colour (DeLuxe)
Dolby Digital
99mins.

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