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September 18, 2013

Film + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia

BT Still 8

No one could ever argue about the importance of marketing and publicity in a film’s path to notoriety but let me tell you how refreshing it can be sometimes to sit in a theatre without having been exposed to a single frame of what you’re about to watch. That’s been exactly my blissful experience when covering British indie flick Borrowed Time as part of the latest UK Cinema Showcase held by the FDA (Film Distributor Association) last July in London.

Borrowed Time isn’t only writer/director Jules Bishop’s feature debut but also the seventh film produced under the Film London Microwave scheme. This program promotes new talent by challenging filmmakers to produce a film for no more than £120,000, offering practical advice and support in return, and up to half the cash budget. Filmed in 18 tight days in order to abide by the scheme’s rules, Borrowed Time surely owes both its flaws and its strengths to it. Yet, despite all the limitations of the case, this film shows how ideas and execution can always make up for the lack of budget and provide a fresh perspective on stories that one way or another have already been told multiple times before.

The premise is unapologetically straightforward: Kevin, played by the lovely Theo Barklem-Biggs (young thesp to put on your radar) is a lazy teenager with no prospects who wanders the not-so-hip parts of East London, hanging out with other slacker-like street friends until he gets involved in the wrong circle for the inevitable financial reasons. But let’s clear all doubts: Kevin is not a delinquent. He’s a good kid with a great heart, just lacking direction and dragged by desperation into silly and dangerous things. Kevin wants to recuperate a family watch stuck at the pawnshop in order to regain his sister’s trust. She seems to have had it with him and even prevents him from seeing his beloved nephew.

BT Still 15

Kevin accepts to carry on a drug deal for an eccentric local thug but he gets screwed over by the counterpart and now owes the money to his criminal employer. Lost and clueless about how to make that sum in 24 hours, Kevin resorts to burglary but he seems to have chosen the wrong house (or maybe the best one) as he has to face a grumpy-reclusive, gout-stricken pensioner named Philip, played to perfection by legendary stage and film/TV actor Phil Davis. It doesn’t take a film critic to predict how these two characters’ antagonistic encounter will soon develop into a significant bond that will help both to overcome their own demons. But as I said above it’s all in the execution.

Bishop surely directs this unlikely couple with graceful touch, offering a nice balance of heart-warming and funny although it takes him a little bit to oil up such mechanism. That’s the only real flaw of the film: a bit of an abrupt tonal shift with the story seemingly going from social-commentary-heavy crime drama to British-humor-laced quirky dramedy. However, once the ball is rolling, Borrowed Time feels like a modern Dickensian tale with a sprinkle of a Guy Ritchie flavour. And the merit goes all to the inspired performances of a cast with great chemistry, confidently led by a filmmaker with something to say. You may have heard it all before but trust me, you don’t want to miss out on the way the story is told this time around.

Borrowed Time is playing in selected London cinemas.

Find your theatre and book tickets here: http://borrowedtimefilm.com/screenings

Francesco Cerniglia – Junior Film Editor