SXSW: Us And Them (2017) - Reviewed

Us and Them recently screened at SXSW

Us and Them (2017), written and directed by Joe Martin, is a British crime drama and thriller.

It's a film that dramatizes an angry, working class, young man's attempts to affect some king of change and retribution against the 1% set against the pathology of the British class system. The film is well-crafted and helped by superb acting, an excellent script, terrific cinematography, and editing.

The non-linear narrative of the crime and the simmering tensions and hostility amongst the characters is juxtaposed against the anti-hero's motivation, selected aspects of his backstory, and the plotting of the crime alone and with his accomplices. It is full of twists and turns which fuel the narrative and create dramatic tension.

Martin weaves together many visual elements to create an intriguing film. Close ups and medium angle shots are interspersed with wide angle shots and aerial shots, and he uses interstitial titles to structure the film. The film is shot in color and includes black and white photography, voice over, underwater footage, super imposed images, the use of filters, zooms, fades to black, video footage, freeze frames, split screens, mise-en-scene long takes and fast paced editing, slow motion, the framing of scenes incorporating windows, and car mirrors, and backlit scenes to create a visually powerful film.

The film includes a touch of the famous British humour involving Glen (Paul Westwood) in the tool shed. I particularly like the shooting of the video documentary in the film and incorporating a close up of Danny’s face framed within the video camera display in the foreground with his persona in the background out of focus. The film is comprised of a series of riveting scenes that give the film depth and complexity. They include the scenes involving the gun pointed at the camera in and out of focus juxtaposed with Danny’s face in and out of focus, the dramatization of Conrad’s and Danny’s thoughts and feelings during Danny’s interrogation of Conrad, and the juxtaposition of the pool scene involving Conrad and Danny and Danny’s backstory about his dad. And the film is filled with memorable lines including “if I had some old school master’s cum drippling out of my ass I’d be alright with you …” and “we all fuck; we all shit; we all die.”

The crime drama is superbly acted and Jack Roth's portrayal of Danny is intensive and riveting and he is equally matched in the performance of his nemesis, Conrad, played by Tim Bentinck. Martin creates an intimate and accessible portrait of Danny, an out of control young man, simmering with anger and hostility. I’d like to single out Andrew Tiernan’s outstanding performance. He plays Tommy, Danny’s mate and an accomplice. The scene involving him and Conrad in the upstairs bathroom sent shivers down my spine.

Are British dramatic crime thrillers your cup of tea? Well, if they are, then, you’re in for a treat with Us and Them. It's a provocative film framed within the pathology of the British class system. It's an intriguing film that held my attention and I highly recommend it even though some scenes were difficult to watch and left me feeling uncomfortable and on edge which was a stated aim of the film. 

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-Stefan Chiarantano