Brookside: The Lost Weekend (Video 1997) Poster

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Worthwhile and ambitious attempt.
The_Movie_Cat27 April 2001
Brookside, while being very variable as a soap opera, proved leagues ahead of its contemporaries in the spin-off video world.

Where feeble money-grabbers like The Dingles Down Under eventually flooded the market, Brookside possessed something that only a soap on a minority channel could have: ambition. The Lost Weekend, shot entirely on film, is an attempt to produce a low-budget thriller utilising key characters from the programme. A far more impressive concept than Mandy Dingle travelling to Australia.

However, while the conception is great, the execution is stifled slightly. Opening with a fictitious television programme - Sing Like A Star - doesn't do a lot for credibility, though it does give a chance to see Claire Sweeney (now famous after appearing in 2001's Celebrity Big Brother) in leather spandex.

The eighteen certificate is taken up by liberal bad language, Paul Usher's first three real lines being a succession of "Ey, yew, yer w*****!"; "S***!" and "F*****' 'Ell!" The story seems to take place in a disconcerting parallel universe where the normal soap parameters are lifted. That said, with the entire regular cast who have a large role uttering some expletive during the proceedings, it does feel a little forced. Some of the lines are also a bit clunky, particularly the pop culture references, and the ill-advised comedy moments, which undermine the inherent drama.

Disappointment can be felt as the movie's promotion as an integral part of the continuing storyline doesn't quite hold up. The serial made perfect sense even without watching this spin-off. However, The Lost Weekend's strict adherence to Brookside continuity means it cannot really be watched in isolation. It also fulfils little of the promised action and instead opts more for the serials' fallback of maudlin speech making and cod philosophising.

However, the realistic surroundings (Brookside being shot in real houses not sets) do add to the pace. The scant moments of actual violence - a man being shot in the genitals, a car bomb and a car ram - are viscous but ineffectively directed. Usher's gun-waving and Gerard Kelly's comedy villain also lack believability, while using rape as a plot point, but then using potential victim Sweeney as titillation is morally questionable.

Ultimately, while the film wants to be an edgy gangster thriller in its own right, it lacks the conviction to break away from its origins. While maintaining the trademark style and pace of the show itself it falls somewhat short. However, the video was successful enough to generate two further spin-off Brookside films. The first, Friday The 13th, saw Claire Sweeney's character assume similar properties to that of Barry Grant, an interesting development. Dean Sullivan too had a more proactive role, and the whole thing was generally better written. And it was worthwhile just to see original series grump Harry Cross use the f word in a hilarious cameo. Sue Johnston appears oddly calm in a crisis during both films, and provides tenuous excuses for the absence of Billy, John McArdle presumably being too busy, or unwilling, to reprise his role.

The final film to date was 99's Double Take! (Q.v.), a spoof deconstruction of the show, which seemed to kill off interest in Brookside special releases. A shame, as all three, while far from perfect, were commendable attempts to do something different within the format.
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