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Happy New Year, Colin Burstead.

A pared-down approach shows off a quieter side to Ben Wheatley’s prodigious talent in this poignantly funny and razor-sharp observation of English family dysfunction.

Dir-Scr Ben Wheatley
Prod Andy Starke
With Neil Maskell, Hayley Squires, Sam Riley
Prod Co Rook Films Ltd

Colin (a brilliant Neil Maskell) has rented a stately country home for his extended family’s New Year celebrations. He’s the centre of attention – though not always pleasantly so – until his estranged brother David (Sam Riley) unexpectedly arrives. His appearance, after a five-year absence, throws the family dynamic far off orbit. Wheatley’s skill with drama and characterisation has been in evidence since his early features Down Terrace and Kill List, but it’s a delight to see it go full frontal here, brought to life by an ensemble so uniformly good it makes name checking only a few feel perverse. (Although Joe Cole, Mark Monero, Charles Dance, Hayley Squires, Asim Chaudhry, Doon Mackichan and Bill Paterson have particularly meaty roles.) Shot in under two weeks, Happy New Year, Colin Burstead. has the dynamism and veracity of early Dogme 95, with Wheatley, his actors and regular cinematographer Laurie Rose achieving a thrilling symbiosis. Do we have enough booze? Who’s got the tunes? Who invited her? What is uncle wearing? Anyone who has lived through an increasingly drunken and disastrous big family ‘do’ will hoot – and cringe – in recognition.

Tricia Tuttle

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