Goodbye Charlie Bright is the humorous and heart-warming story of the friendship between two teenage boys from a tough council estate. Set during a long hard summer it charts the close but volatile relationship between Charlie and Justin.
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In the grim early years of Margaret Thatcher's premiership, also the crown years of hooliganism, the opportunities for thrill-seeking young men are what they've always been: sex, drugs, rock n' roll, fashion, football and fighting.
Charlie is a London youngster who,with his friends,indulges in streaking and petty crime. However he aspires to better himself though his reckless friend Justin ruins his chances of working with his cousin Hector as an estate agent. Another of Charlie's friends Francis learns that his girlfriend has been unfaithful with the older Eddie and seeks revenge but ends up getting run over by Eddie. Justin steals a gun and drags a reluctant Charlie along to kill Eddie,though he only wounds him. The two boys end up on a roof with the police below before their fates are finally settled.Written by
don @ minifie-1
When Charlie and Justin attend Hector's party, they are seen taking the Central Line out into Essex, where Hector's mansion is supposedly located. They get off the train at Debden Station and are seen coming out of the main entrance and walking down the street. This scene was actually not filmed at Debden Station but at Ickenham Station, which is on the Metropolitan/Picadilly Line (as opposed to the Central) and in Middlesex (not Essex), which is on the other side of London, to the West rather than the East. Director Nick Love superimposed the word "Debden" over the "Ickenham" section of the sign, though quite why he chose to shoot the scene at Ickenham instead of Debden remains unclear. Ironically, it's unlikely that the boys would have used Debden to get to a house like Hector's anyway - if the house was supposedly in that part of Essex, it would have been more likely to have been somewhere like Chigwell. See more »
Interesting and with a certain energy but lags with its need to potter about with un-likable characters, disjointed scenes and off the mark story.
Goodbye Charlie Bright does carry a certain raw energy that makes it sort of fun to watch but do not let that fool you because for me, the film fell marginally short. I think it's great that a British director is making films about British ways of living in locations British people will recognise and Nick Love has clearly been doing something that impresses someone else because he's made a few films since this one. But Goodbye Charlie Bright is a film that will appeal more to those of the certain culture the film focuses on. As someone who lives relatively close to London and as someone who was of these kids' age when the film was respectively produced, I suppose there should be some sort of a connection for me. But, there isn't and this is probably down to the fact I was not of the ilk Love is exposing for his film.
Goodbye Charlie Bright is a film for the Brits and that is enough for it to garner some sort of respect from me. The kids walk around wearing Millwall football club shirts, they talk in the heavy respective accent and their lives unfold in a setting most of us will be familiar with I can still remember the garages and apartment estate near my old secondary school and the sorts of people you may see hanging around there at certain times. But for me not to feel any sort of connection nor familiarity with these people or locations despite being relatively familiar with them in some sort of way is quite sad. Then again perhaps it's a good thing but there is nothing on offer in terms of nostalgia for someone who has lived through this period in Britain (2001) of these characters respective ages.
Instead, Love gives us a realistic look at life on an estate and introduces us to many-a caricatures of South London urban life. The film is not particularly neo-realistic and thus cannot be considered as a political film nor statement on the ways of living in Britain for those of a certain class. But Love avoids this approach, instead opting for high energy levels, black humour and causality involving the characters. The obvious problem with the film is, I think, the way it tiptoes around the more important issues such as knife and gun culture (until the very end). Instead it has its characters act in a self-promoting manner under a guise of playing chess and getting into mischief made light-hearted and 'fun' when really it's all very, very dangerous and life threatening.
The film is shameless in its attempt to get a quick guffaw and this is announced very early on when a couple of lads run stark nude through the estate, grab a football and then run off for the sanctuary of a hidden bush. Along the way they run past a young woman and the obligatory yells and hollers soon follow. The film has more so gotten across its need for childish humour and an outlandish scene good enough for a quick laugh than it has made an important point on the dangers of the young, bored and unemployed British white male of circa summer 2001. The film also hovers around the necessity to include scenes of partying, partying antics involving girls and the over consumption of alcohol. Again, this is relatively early on and offers nothing to the narrative but does act as a scene establishing who these people are and what they do. The party is a send off for a character going to the Army (Aldershot, not too far from myself) but it is for a character we do not know of, have no connection to and consequently cannot care for. I wonder if the boys at the function care that much either or is it an excuse for loud music, girls and lager?
Then there are the little things that make Goodbye Charlie Bright feel like a missed opportunity. The film's primary source of antagonism early on is in the form of a large black man that the lads steal from. Firstly, it is a shame that it is the role of a black man that must be used for this part and secondly the strand involving this plot of antagonism is developed into something interesting before being stopped dead in its tracks. Then there is the friendship with Jamie Foreman's character Tony which is introduced and developed but not followed through with. There is a little bit of antagonism with a guy who has 'made it' with his pretty wife, big car, house and pool but that comes and goes without much occurring. It was interesting for me to watch out for where the main source of antagonism was going to come from and that ended up being Phil Daniel's character Eddie who is introduced as a knife wielding, womanising racist but is then brought down to Earth with a Falkland's War related back-story although it feels like a loose attempt to throw in some Thatcherism related politics.
As I say, the film retains an 'entertaining' quality that feels real and raw but it doesn't elevate itself to any greatness. The relationship between Bright (Nicholls) and Justin (Manookian) who are probably both playing themselves gets too homo-erotic towards the end with all the rolling around, head patting and frequent use of the name 'the wife' (two girls at the beginning even shout "Queers!" at them) but even so, it cannot hold much of a torch to Love's later work nor to other respective nation's films about this subject matter like Brazil's City of God and France's La Haine.
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