Starring: Pete Postelthwaite, Ewan McGregor, Tara Fitzgerald
Director: Mark Herman
Running Time: 103 mins
Brassed Off is a British film about a mine in a small Yorkshire town that faces closure, which poses a great threat to the future of the mine’s long-standing brass band.
In similar fashion to the likes of Local Hero, Brassed Off is a charming and heartfelt little local film that will make you smile and laugh throughout. With a collection of delightful performances across the board, and a story that’s just as dramatic as it is quaint, this is a consistently engaging watch from start to finish, and even though there are times when certain elements overshadow others (we’ll get into that in a second), it’s a strong film throughout.
Let’s start off with the performances, which are fantastic throughout. In the lead role, Pete Postlethwaite brilliantly portrays the elder statesman of the mining town, hanging on to the town’s former glory by pushing harder and harder to keep the brass band alive, and he manages to show the character’s deep emotion and love for his community so well throughout, making him an absolutely wonderful character to follow.
In the end, that’s what this film is mostly about, a sense of community. The brass band and their story is a true-life representation of how people come together, but the main message and heart of this movie centres on a group of people seeing their community facing destruction, and trying to strengthen their bonds in response.
As a result, the supporting cast plays a strong role in the film as a whole, with stand-out performances from Stephen Tompkinson as Postlethwaite’s son, Tara Fitzgerald as a posh Southerner who joins the band, and Ewan McGregor as one of the younger members of the community. All of them put in delightful and charming performances that match with the film’s small-scale but very intimate atmosphere, and that notion is what really makes the film such a great watch.
Another plus is how well director Mark Herman establishes the world of a small mining town so well on screen. The actors make their characters strong presences in the community, but that community is a strong presence in itself thanks to Herman’s portrayal of the location.
With the history of mining towns in the North suffering a significant blow during the 1980s under the Thatcher government, the stories of those who protested against closures are now very well-known. However, rather than being too political for the majority of the story, Herman uses the idea of a tightly-knit community in a small town to move you into supporting these men and women, and hoping that their pit doesn’t get closed, which made the film all the more engrossing.
With that said, however, there are times when the film’s political voice can be a little overpowering, and often unfortunately takes away from the more intimate emotional story and light comedy that’s far more engaging. While it’s not all that bad for the majority of the movie, there are a couple of sequences, particularly in the final act, when the film addresses the issues of pit closures head on, the political sentiment just feels a little too strong, and it’s nowhere near as easy to be moved by those statements as it is by the more intimate side of the story, which I was a little disappointed to see.
On the whole, however, I enjoyed Brassed Off. A pleasant and quaint little movie that does a great job of connecting you deeply with a small community, it’s an engaging watch throughout, and although it may overstep the mark a little at times when it comes to the political side of things, it’s still a strong film throughout, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.4.