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Film Review: Starred Up (2013)

Director: David Mackenzie
Written by: Jonathan Asser
Starring: Jack O’Connell, Ben Mendelson and Rupert Friend

Starred Up, a British prison drama, has to be one of the best British films of 2013. It stars Jack O’Connell as Eric Love, a nineteen year old prisoner who has been moved from a young offenders institute to an adult prison two years premature - this is referred to as being ‘starred up’. Ben Mendelson co-stars as Eric’s father Neville Love who, as fate would have it, is also a prisoner there and Rupert Friend rounds off this talented cast as Oliver a behavioural psychologist who runs a group for previously violent prisoners.

Starred up is a brutal, honest and hard-hitting film and its documentary style gives the film a gravitas quality. As we know, films are mostly always shot out of sequence, however director David Mackenzie has said that the entire film was shot in sequence - creating a sense of consent movement and energy, as though the camera is always catching up to the action. I love this about the film as it also makes the actors’ relationships and interactions seem more naturally evolving.

What makes Starred Up really great to watch is that at the heart of this violent and harsh prison setting is a complex father-son relationship - portrayed beautifully, with emotional depth and honesty due to Asser’s script, Mackenzie’s direction and most importantly the phenomenal performances of the O’Connell and Mendelson.

Both men, as well as Rupert Friend, are brilliant and have a great dynamic on screen, but Jack O’Connell (only twenty two at the time) gives such an intense and electric performance as volatile young teen Eric Love that you can’t take your eyes off him. As I said in my review of the film Tower Block (2012) before Christmas, Jack O’Connell never disappoints to give a great performance. I look forward to his next film.

Starred Up is a great piece of filmmaking and is definitely worth the watch.


By Sophie Watts​

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