Director: Rufus Norris
Writers: Alecky Blythe
Verdict: Real good fun
London Road is such an interesting widget of a film it would be hard to see through the gimmick of it’s premise. Which is interesting because that’s normally a problem encountered by 70s sci-fi movies like Westworld, Logan’s Run, or Planet of the Apes, or even modern slasher films craving some relevance like Unfriended, Saw, or Final Destination, (which is actually a lot better than people give it credit for). A couple of genre’s where that’s not often levelled are musicals, and crime dramas, both of which this seems to be, with some of the pitch black farce of Dr. Strangelove. Despite this, London Road thrives off off inventive musical numbers, a self-knowing that never becomes ironic, and strong film making.
London Road follows the true life tale of 5 murders in Ipswich, and the ensuing sense of the town turning upon itself, a la M. Doesn’t sound like appropriate material for a musical? Well it’s not, and to make it worse all the songs are taken from actual interviews done around the time of the murders, which leads to the ever classic chart topping banger, “everyone’s very very nervous and um quite scared, basically”. Occasionally that’s very clear where some of the things that are said could only have been said to an interviewer which is very striking, and equally occasionally if not more frequently, the songs very accurately take what was actually said in very candid interviews and contextualises them in a way that makes them genuinely seem like they’re part of some internal monologue. At the end of the film thy let you hear the audio from the actual interviews and it shatters the illusion in a way that is really quite striking. The way the songs are orchestrated are actually quite expertly done.
I am informed this isn’t unique to London Road, I haven’t seen it but I am told that The Arbor does something similar, and occasionally the way the film tries to capture natural dialogue in song is eerily reminiscent of Les Misérables.
The film is very dark, it has moments of real drama, it’s a musical about murders infesting a small residential area. I’d say Blue Velvet the musical but that’s only slightly over exaggerating. There are red herrings a plenty, and actually some of the casting choices act as red herrings purely because you think of how well known they are, they have to have a role like a villain that requires real acting. Also some of the things that Olivia Coleman, (Locke, The Lobster, Hot Fuzz), says is quite striking but also believable in a way where it’s kind of awful that it’s so believable. That being said, there are moments of genuine comedy, very very British comedy, where actually it’s funny because of just how sort of middle-class-nevuax-riche-twat British it is, but there’s also some genuine slapstick that means that I think I’m allowed to laugh at just how balls to the wall weird some of the musical numbers are. The presence of other jokes implies that some of the songs are played for jokes, and in a way that uneasiness of whether I’m meant to laugh helps the over all tension of the film. Whether that’s meant to happen I HAVE NO IDEA but it works very well.
In the end London Road is really entertaining, whether it’s just through how quirky it is or the genuine cinematic craft there is to be found. It’s well acted, well put together and a really good film to watch with friends. Trust me, you’ll pick up the lyrics really, really easily.