A Room For Romeo Brass (Shane Meadows, 1999)

“I knew there and then that there was a spirit in the room and it was trying to attack me. So what unfolded then was a fight between me and this unseen entity.”

Introduction

So, to continue with a celebration of films by Shane Meadows, we move onto the film that propelled me to actually commit to this blog-a-thon of sorts. I was travelling to Birmingham to see young Richard and thought, ‘Hey – I should watch another film from the Shane Meadows boxset I was given’ so, with Sarah inserting the right earbud into her ear, I placed the left earbud into my own and as we travelled the Chiltern service between London and Birmingham we watched A Room For Romeo Brass. And, as previously stated, this simply confirmed how great a filmmaker Shane Meadows is…

Before Secondary School, Before Life …

We follow Gavin (Ben Marshall) and Romeo (Andrew Shim from This is England) as they muck about as young boys do. Romeo has a broken family, whereby his Father has left his family and his Mother and sister
raise Romeo, Gavin on the other hand is an only child but has a severe back disability. Both these factors do not affect their relationship too much – Romeo accompanies Gavin to the hospital as Gavin works his back in a swimming pool whilst Gavin supports Romeo when his Dad returns. As Gavin and Romeo walk to school one morning, the two young boys get themselves into a fight with some older boys and Paddy Considines ‘Morrell’ helps out and splits up the fight. Romeo, with a bloody nose, is driven back to his house and Morell see’s Romeos sister Ladine (Vicky McClury, again, from This is England) and is obsessed… Morrell then become a huge part of everyones life …

The Realism of Mental Concerns

Paddy Considines ‘Morrell’ has clear mental issues – he is not to be perceived as a joke and the realism of the entire film, the entire style of Shane Meadows, is what places this film in a league of its own. Its additionally a testament to Considines acting that he can play this eccentric, screws-loose, creepy character of Morrell and then, years later, play the sombre and strong ‘Richard’ of Dead Mans Shoes. As soon as we meet Morell, you are on edge – you know he will factor in the kids lives … but you also know he is not to be trusted. The realism means you are much more personally involved – the rainy and dull days in the North of England is nothing new. You know those days, you know the people and you know the trust children automatically have for others – escpecially adults who are interested in them. I remember that I when I had a paper round there was aguy who I regularly spoke to and would class as a friend – despite the man being at least 40. In hindsight, he could of been exceptionally dangerous (he wasn’t) but my trust in him was without fail. Gavin and Romeo do not understand the mental concerns that Romeos sister clearly see’s in Morrell.

Romeo specifically is desperate for a father-figure – and his constant disrespect to his father, we know, is a part of his age and the barrell of emotions that he is having difficulty with expressing. This is where the realism and specific characters are so key – only in this situation would these things happen and if we didn’t believe in the context or characters the entire film would fall apart. Meadows shooting style utilises improvisation as key to getting natural performances from his actors and I think the characters created are built around the story – what type of person would Morrell be? What type of person would Romeo be to be content with becoming friends with Morrell? Etc.

Small conversations flesh out the characters – in one scene, Romeo and Morell discuss their fathers – you can hear an undercurrent of Morrells statements indicating abuse in childhood, but this is not explicit – it simply exposes the ‘truth’ about Morrell. He is not simply ‘nuts’, he had a family and, potentially, friends and there is a reason he is comfortable being friends with Romeo. Morrell preys on the vulnerable – Romeo and Gavin in a fight, Gavins father, attacking Ladine’s friend with no chance for him to respond. Morrell even threatens to ‘go dark’ on Frank Harper (from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Scum), playing Romeo’s Dad, is in a vulnerable position as his son watches him and he is clearly aware of how his prescence in the house is not acceptable by Romeo’s Mothers standards. Ironically, it is Romeo’s father who ‘saves’ the day when Morrell loses his grip on reality in the final act.

The characters in Shane Meadows films are always ‘larger than life’ who seek to break out of their dull lives – Morrell, Combo’s Neo-Nazi’s (from This is England) and Sonny’s gang (in Dead Mans Shoes) all seek to hurt others to make themselves feel more important – extreme violence/bullying/abuse in all three films (except Richard in Dead Mans Shoes) all inflict pain on the weak and vulnerable – children (A Room for Romeo Brass), ethnic-minorties (This is England) and mentally-challenged (Dead Mans Shoes).

Technical Achievment

Shane Meadows camera work, additionally, shows class and acute awareness of controlling tension in A Room for Romeo Brass. In many cases, we see the camera continuing rolling as we see Morell intervene in the first fight and, to add to the claustrophobia, as Morell attempts to trap Ladine in his flat. Personally, as the camera continues to roll it forces you to stay with Ladine and Morell and I felt incredibly scared for her, following this act, we see Morrell beat the man outside the shop and the camera lingers on the violence, slowly panning back as it continues. As we draw this analysis to a close, it is worth noting the finale as Gavin’s father is ordered to go to his knees and, again, the camera follows this sequence with very few cuts.

This, again, comes as a highly recommended film. I think that Shane Meadows is one of the best directors England has to offer. He shows a very real side to England by showing intricate storys that tackle the desperation in the working-class and areas of poverty. The lack of education and lack of community in sectors of society and the potential outcomes. Flawless filmmaking.

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