Winner of numerous festival awards, 'London to Brighton' announces the big screen arrival of actor-turned-director Paul Andrew Williams. It's an edgy and disturbing film which mixes character study with suspense and works far better than a lot of thrillers - all this and it was shot in 19 days.
In a public toilet prostitute Kelly (Stanley) and 11-year-old runaway Joanne (Groome) are both close to hysterical. Kelly's face is badly bruised, while Joanne is terrified of being left by herself. They need to come up with a plan as soon as possible and put as much distance as they can between themselves and the night's events. Kelly decides that they should both go to her friend's house in Brighton, but must leave Joanne for a while to get the money together for the train. With nowhere else to go and no-one else to turn to, Joanne agrees - not knowing if Kelly will come back for her and not realising that her ordeal is far from over.
In look and feel, 'London to Brighton' owes much to other British grime movies like 'Naked' and 'Nil By Mouth' and proves to be as harrowing as either. Using the conventions of the movie chase, Williams has made a film which looks at the people at the bottom of the pile and the brutality, terror and destruction of innocence which are all part of that world. Be it by budget or design, Williams doesn't allow much in the way of build-up or backstory and the result is a deftly-paced film which uses flashbacks to good effect.
There is an argument after watching 'London to Brighton' as to whether such tough subject matter should be placed within thriller conventions, but both those who agree and disagree will find that Williams' film continues assaulting their senses even after the denouement. That ending might be a little too convenient and well-telegraphed, but 'London to Brighton' remains a distinctive debut.
It will be very interesting to see where Williams travels to next.