#LFF14 Review: Bypass
George MacKay gives yet another magnetic performance in this dark, tense window onto the lives of those Conservative Britain most wants us to forget.
Bypass, Duane Hopkins’ follow-up to his 2008 breakthrough Better Things, is at times a difficult film to like. The characters, not least the central figure of Tim (Pride’s George MacKay proving yet again that he is one of the UK’s most versatile young actors), are imperfect, troubled, conflicted and abused by the cards they have been dealt.
Tim’s brother, the family bread-winner, is in prison for burglary and assaulting a police officer. His mother is dead, his father absent. Tim is suddenly responsible for himself and for his sister, and for keeping things together until his brother returns.
It is an indictment of Britain today either that no help is available to Tim, or that he doesn’t feel able to ask for it. Instead he pays for his sister’s food and occasional gas meter top-ups by selling stolen goods, all the while falling increasingly ill. The only bright light is his relationship with his girlfriend – but even there, some unexpected news casts yet another unwelcome shadow.
Bypass is no picnic – the tension builds, slowly at first but then, from the midway point, with increasing intensity, until the various pressures on Tim converge. If there is one weakness in the film, it is the final five minutes – a visually and aurally beautiful but unnecessary coda which somehow undercuts the ‘real’, potentially devastating climax which precedes it. Nevertheless, Bypass is an important, well-executed and thought-provoking social melodrama which shines a light on the lives of those we would often prefer to ignore.