A sad story about sad people that is never maudlin
Triumph and failure
There is more than a whiff of Ken Loach about this simple but quite beautifully told story about a middle-aged man's struggle to come to terms with his past. No surprise, then, that it was co-produced by Loach's company, Sixteen Films. In an unspecified northern English town, life for Shaun (Robert Carlyle) is grim. When he is not caring for his disabled and terminally ill friend, Daz (Steve Evets), he is reminiscing about the summer he spent with his first love, Katy (Rachael Blake), as teenagers. Shaun's life has been blighted by a series of cruel blows: severe dyslexia at school saw him labelled as a troublemaker; trouble with the law at a young age meant he was destined only for a job at the petrol station; and Katy, the only ray of light in his murky existence, was soon whisked away to a better life, where her parents could guarantee that she wouldn't date riff-raff like Shaun. But following Daz's grim prognosis, Shaun decides to make amends. Carlyle's quiet performance as a fundamentally decent man whom the system has failed, is utterly convincing. And the soft summer light that infuses this sad story about sad people prevents it from becoming maudlin, and results in some beautifully shot sequences, particularly when it comes to the flashbacks of Shaun's youth. This is no Bourne Identity. What little happens does so slowly. Its beauty instead lies in its unapologetic portrayal of human triumph and failure, and the knife-edge that separates them.