So you’re a model on East London’s fashion scene. What are you going to do with your spare time? Why, blow everything on drugs, binge drinking and sex, of course! At least, that’s the route the protagonists of Live East Die Young, directed by Laura Hypponen, have chosen to take.
The film follows Emma (Zoe Grisedale) and her stylist Max (James Jeanette Main) as their lives go precisely nowhere. Emma’s just broken up with her boyfriend, collapses on a photoshoot, and the only person who seems to be taking a blind bit of notice of her is the morally-questionable Teddy (Lewis Grolle), who’s sniffing around looking for dirt to put in his upcoming autobiography of her. All that’s fine, of course, until they befriend photographer Alicja (Jasmine Polak) and Max starts taking an interest in Teddy… Things swiftly spiral out of control. Well, further out of control.
This one’s not for the faint-hearted, that’s for sure – a few more conservative members of the audience at the screening I went to weren’t quite prepared for some of the more explicit scenes – there’s a lot of nudity, and more than a little drug-taking. There’s also a generous helping of sex – including some unnecessarily graphic stuff near the end, in my opinion – and one could be forgiven for thinking that maybe there’s more shock than substance to this particular piece. That would be a little unfair.
There are a lot of really interesting issues touched upon in Live East Die Young – the pressures of success, and indeed lack thereof, in youth; peer pressure; sexuality; responsibility – but do note the phrasing there, as it feels as if most of these themes are barely touched on before the action goes in a different direction. While there’s the beginning of a whole subplot formed around George, Teddy’s son, being introduced to the idea of transvestites, it’s never really resolved… and the lack of resolution is something it’s wise to get used to early on in this film.
The narrative is quite choppy and time doesn’t seem to work quite as it does in the real world, but personally I felt that was a nice effect. Long establishing shots combined with seemingly random time jumps and drawn-out dialogue give a general effect of disorientation and confusion which seems to coincide nicely with the characters’ experience of life. It can be jarring at times, however – such as when time suddenly jumps forward two years and the audience is left playing catch-up. We start following Emma’s story but by the end of the film the main point of interest is definitely Max. The main thing that bothers me about this is that neither of those stories are really resolved in a satisfactory manner by the end of the film – we’re distanced from Emma and when the credits roll Max still has the audience thinking ‘What?’.
I suppose really, what I came away from this film with was the persistent, nagging feeling that you can’t trust anyone – something the characters come to realise throughout the course of the story. This film is enough to knock you for six – I’d planned to race straight to another screening after Live East Die Young, but found myself having to sit down and really think about what I’d just seen. And then endeavour not to think about it for a bit. And then think about it some more. Unlike some of the other films I watched at the festival, it’s not a film that’s easily processed; it is certainly thought-provoking. I’m just not sure what the thoughts were that it was supposed to provoke.
It’s not a comfortable film; it doesn’t have you leaving the cinema with warm fuzzy feelings in your belly – quite the opposite, actually – but if you’re not looking for comfort and happiness, this could be a good film for you. If nothing else, Max in particular has some incredible costumes, and George Mowlam puts in a convincing performance as George. For general viewing, though, I’d advise finding something a little less challenging when you choose the film for your Saturday afternoon cinema trip.
I’d give this 2 out of 5.
Eleanor Musgrove (wishes she could pull off half the outfits these people do)
This review is of a film seen at Festival du Film Britannique du Dinard, 2012. The film was in the competition.