The Goob‘s title refers to the lead character, a young and wandering youth fresh out of school who’s played by newcomer Liam Walpole. He rips of his school uniform at the beginning of the film in victorious celebration of finishing school and escaping into the ‘real world’, but just what sort of a world is he escaping into? At home his mother (Sienna Guillory) has taken up with the dangerous and loathsome Womack (Sean Harris) and when Goob is not there he is either hanging out at a dilapidated community centre or tending to a pumpkin crop under the hot summer sun. On paper it seems an overly oppressive environment but the film paints Goob’s plight with subtlety and an even hand.
The biggest issue with The Goob is that it doesn’t really do anything which we haven’t seen before, or perhaps more crucially it doesn’t display it in any new or exciting way. This indie ‘coming of age’ tale feels like every other piece of social commentary we have seen before with long shots of aimless meanderings in the countryside, sparse dialogue and that certain washed out visual pallet which is so prevalent in such films. That isn’t to say it isn’t done well, Simon Tindall’s cinematography is one of the real highlights of the film, it’s just that nothing about the feel of the movie strikes you as new or different. What does shake things up just a little though is that the film is set in Norfolk and makes use of the often unused flat farming landscape to create a contradictory sense of freedom and repression. A feeling which the landscape generates but which seems to envelop all of the characters who seem to be simultaneously at peace with their limited opportunities and desperate to escape them.
What works particularly well here are the performances. Liam Walpole does well in his first role, particularly when you consider that he is not a trained actor but a local who almost accidentally got swept up in the production when it came to his local area. He brings a quiet sensitivity to Goob, but you can see the strain of his circumstances taking effect somewhere deep within him. Opposite him is Sean Harris who is excellent despite him being somewhat typecast. He easily establishes himself as the villain of the piece as he intimidates any man and leers at any woman/girl who stumbles into his path. A highlight of his performance is his broad Norfolk accent; no doubt growing up in the county can’t have hurt him, but regardless it’s still impressive to hear such a distinctive accent without it coming across as a caricature of itself.
The Goob suffers from being too familiar a genre piece and its script meanders a little aimlessly from plotpoint to plotpoint, rather like its directionless characters. A little more focus could have really sharpened this up; if more attention had been paid to the central family dynamic between Walpole, Harris and Guillory instead of littering the film with numerous plot offshoots then this would have been notably stronger. There’s nothing wrong with the various directions this film takes but it at times feels like a young filmmaker who is trying out all of his ideas at once. Director Guy Myhill is a promising talent and if he applies a little more restraint I think we could have quite a film on our hands.
What is the film’s greatest strength? I think it would have to be Sean Harris’ performance.
Its greatest weakness? A little more focus in the script would have helped.
Would I see it again? That’s a tough call… possibly but I’m not going to be rushing out to see it again.
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