Based on the bestselling novel by Kevin Sampson, 'Awaydays' centres around a gang of soccer hooligans and their newest recruit. It is a bleak film that looks and sounds authentic, but is strangely unaffecting.
Set in 1979 Merseyside, we are introduced to well-brought-up, middle class teen Paul Carty (Bell) as he embarks on his dabblings with a pack of young soccer louts.
Nineteen-year-old Carty works in an undemanding civil service job, lives at home with his father and younger sister and likes to go to gigs at underground clubs. But he is desperate to get in with the bunch of hooligans called The Pack, led by the older John (Graham).
Carty falls in with Elvis (Boyle), one of the Pack members, at an Echo & the Bunnymen gig, and although the jaded and cynical Elvis tries to talk him out of it, Carty joins the gang, and proves himself to be harder and more brutal than expected.
Elvis is a tortured, artistic soul who wants to escape the drudgery of his everyday life and move to Berlin. However, as Carty becomes more involved with the Pack's violence, Elvis retreats into a world of drugs and depression, partly due to his unrequited feelings for Carty.
Performances from leads Nicky Bell and Liam Boyle are solid; Bell is particularly convincing and wild eyed in the few fight scenes. They are, however, let down by the meandering plot, which doesn't lend the film any structure, and a script which gives us little insight into the characters heads.
These flaws undermine a film that has a convincing, gritty atmosphere, set and costume design, but is ultimately an unedifying experience. And although the screenplay was adapted by Kevin Sampson, the author of the original book, he has ditched the dry humour of his source material in favour of an almost entirely humourless and grim script.
On a more positive note, one of the main aspects which keeps the audience's interest piqued is the excellently chosen soundtrack, with cracking songs from the likes of The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen and Joy Division. This is not enough to save a film that doesn't make us sympathise for the main protagonist as we don't understand his motives, nor care really.
Ultimately, the film feels like a triumph of style over substance.