FILTH

Filth-UK
Directed by Jon S. Baird

Starring James McAvoy, Jamie Bell & Jim Broadbent
Based on the novel by Irvine Welsh

They really don’t make films like this anymore. Hilariously funny, dramatically tragic, abstract and surreal, a seriously disturbed and despicable protagonist, genuinely unexpected plot twists, and all well under 2 hours long! FILTH, based on Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same name, is a certified hit. The last films that had this affect on me were released about a decade and a half ago and go under the names of Fight Club, and another film based on a Welsh novel, Trainspotting.

This film could have been made in that same Trainspotting era and could have starred Ewan McGregor, but luckily for James McAvoy, it wasn’t. This is his career defining performance. Sure, he’s had his hits and triumphs in such successful films as The Last King of Scotland, Atonement, Wanted and the X-Men franchise, but this is as good as it gets for McAvoy. It’s in this film that he has found his grittiest, most complex and challenging role to date. To star in an Irvine Welsh based film, no matter how much time has passed, his performance will always be compared to that of Ewan McGregor’s in Trainspotting. And yes, there are times when you can vividly imagine it is Ewan McGregor in his place, as this role could have easily been written specifically with McGregor in mind, with a strong hint of Robert Carlyle’s psychotic take on Begbie thrown into the mix . But McAvoy, looking much more haggard and bloated than we’re used to seeing him, has a dark side not seen on screen until now.

While McAvoy’s performance makes this film, credit must be given where deserved. Director Jon S. Baird had a strong challenge on his hands making a coherent film out of not just any Welsh novel, but such a crazy one at that. Baird adapted the novel into the screenplay, making sense out of Welsh’s style of interpreting a Scottish accent into writing using slang and dialectal spelling that only a true Scotsman could understand. While the film remains truly Scottish in all its glory, it is universal in its humour and compassion. I predict it to be an international hit on the scale of the 1996 Welsh based film Trainspotting which became a global phenomenon. The stars were aligned for that release, and perhaps the time is right again for such a harsh and gritty story told as only a Scotsman could tell it – with extreme graphic vulgarity.

To the Irvine Welsh purists out there, be warned that some plot points have been altered from the novel, but not so significantly that the idea of the story has drastically changed. Baird takes Welsh’s work a step further and adds a narrative thread to tie all of his ideas together. While Trainspotting‘s film adaptation uses the friendship of the boys as the main narrative thread, Baird makes antihero Bruce Robertson’s mental disintegration his. While the novel alludes to this and displays it in more physical form, Baird approaches it head on and makes it the centrepoint of the plot, artistically using abstract imagery to mirror the manic chaos of the severe mental illnesses that Bruce Robertson is suffering from. Jim Broadbent’s psychiatrist character is a hybrid of the novel’s talking tapeworm and Bruce’s GP, all used to fuel Robertson’s decline. McAvoy’s performance allows us to see the humanity in this otherwise despicable character and with a mere facial expression, he is able to express everything. In one touching scene in particular where Bruce is confronted by his colleague Amanda, McAvoy is psychotic one minute and vulnerable the next, perfectly summarizing this character’s fear of life and drive for his filthy behaviour.

This film very much lives up to its name. Not only is it about a Scottish policeman, “The Filth” being a slang term for police in Scotland, but the amount of pure filth shown on screen is disturbing and not for the faint of heart. I’ve specifically not discussed the plot of this film as by revealing spoilers, I would be ruining this film for many. It is an experience that goes beyond the plot. The tone and the twists are the key. The performances are intense. The visuals and music are a feast. You won’t understand what you’re watching until it’s over. Filth will leave you disturbed and exhilarated. It will leave you questioning why they don’t make films like this anymore – fookin great films, aye.

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