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Mile End – Review


Release Date: 3 October 2015
Director: Graham Higgins
Writer: Graham Higgins
Cast: Alex Humes - Mark Arnold - Heidi Agerholm Balle

Posted November 12, 2015 by

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Mile End Review:

I never understood the expression ‘misery loves company’ – is misery a stockbroker? Nevertheless this popular expression is played out in writer-director Graham Higgins’ low-budget British film, Mile End, which makes a good fist at gentrifying what we think of as the East End London thriller.

Those who follow London news closely will have heard of the backlash against some cafe owners who attempted to charge Hackney locals five quid for a cereal. What these enterprising young people were trying to say is that your partaking workman would happily spend the back end of Elizabeth Fry on cholesterol-busting Full English. Why not spend the same amount on a Healthy English? Unfortunately, they were drummed out of the borough by some Hackney-tivists.

Mr Higgins is on somewhat surer ground. After all, the East End is home to Canary Wharf, London’s financial district and he makes full use of the architecture – all glass windows, neat walkways, serviced by a ‘light railway’.

This is the first East End movie that doesn’t feature a single scene in a pub – or even a wine bar for that matter. It is full of joggers, people who enjoy the breeze from the river, motivated by the dash to the next crossing.

Mile End is mostly filmed around the Wharf, with one or two scenes in streets that are less well scrubbed. It is about a young professional, Paul (Alex Humes) who is fired by his younger boss. ‘I quit my job,’ he sheepishly tells his girlfriend, Kate (Heidi Agerholm Balle) as if trying to spin it into some bold statement about redefining his existence. In reality, he takes up running. He encounters a middle-aged American, John (Mark Arnold) who attempts to high-five him as he passes. Being a Londoner, Paul naturally declines.

John, as Paul later discovers, has issues. But when Paul meets him again in a smart cafe (one of the few authentic Mile End locations), he discovers they have more to talk about than running. John helps Paul with his paint problem – he is decorating the flat and the couple’s credit card is maxed out. (‘You use it as much as me,’ says Kate, which is no defence.) He shows Paul how much fun it is to trip a jogger over. Then he gets angry. John is the kind of man who will remember a name like Mike Glendale and keep it in his head. It is a veritable Filofax in there. He is also retired through ill-health (stress); his wife and kids left him.

Mile End is in the Single White Female same-sex stalker thriller, where what John really wants is a brother. He goes Full Farley, which for fans of Strangers On A Train means he’ll take out anyone who has disrespected Paul, Farley Granger-style.

The film has its original moments. Instead of going on an alcoholic bender, Paul consumes an inordinate amount of coffee – a gift from John – which is possibly narcotic in nature. John, too, at one point fixates on bottled water.

The dialogue between Paul and Kate isn’t great. Higgins does better with a dinner party set piece when Paul is coerced into going running with Kate’s best friend’s partner, Adrian (Valmike Rampersad) who has completed 30 marathons, but probably no Suduko puzzles. Adrian thinks stretching is a fool’s way to an injury. I’ve run three marathons and can confidently say he’s an idiot. For about 40 minutes, we are not exactly sure if the film is a thriller, but the ambiguity keeps you interested.

Violence mostly takes place in the shadows or off screen. Cinematographer Anna Valdez Hanks gives the film, which opens with the Hackney Half Marathon, a slick look. Arnold is a captivating antagonist, with features that remind you of Patton Oswalt, William H Macy or Charles Napier (depending on how old you are). He has subsequently been cast as Cole Porter in Stephen Frears’ next project Florence Foster Jenkins. Mile End isn’t the most original or surprising British thriller you’ll ever see, but it keeps you absorbed with its Fatal Attraction bromance.

Reviewed at the Big Picture Film Club, Genesis Cinema, Stepney Green, Tuesday 10 November 2015


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Larry Oliver
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