Bronco Bullfrog review

Barney Platts-Mills' long forgotten 1969 black and white slice of life drama has been dusted of by the BFI for a digitally restored re-release. They're hailing it as a cult film - "the first film Mike Leigh should have made" according to one critic - though I'd never heard of the film before myself.

The reference to Leigh however is something of a misnomer. He at least works with skilled actors who are very adept at improvisation. Platts-Mills' predominantly young cast had no thespian experience whatsoever. They're
all non-actors and their stumbling, awkward performances are hardly compelling but at least they register a naturalism that has a certain truthful charm about it.

It follows the day-to-day existence of teenager Dan (Walker), a 17-year-old who's thoroughly bored with his life in East London. He and his mates hang out in cafes and lust after girls. His father is suspicious of his activities but nevertheless gives him money to buy a motorbike.

Dan fancies shy Irene (Gooding), a 15-year-old who lives with her mum in a tower block. He inarticulately askes her out and she inarticulately agrees. They have a nice time together spending the afternoon in Leicester Square, but the relationship is frowned upon by their respective parents and they rebel. He idolises his older pal Bronco (Shepherd), fresh out of Borstal, and aids him in a robbery, thereby using the proceeds for him and Irene to go the country to stay with his uncle. But the police are now after the runaways and are on their trail.

It's not a rivetting scenario but the inexperienced cast are believable and the film provides an interesting time capsule of London that looks less cluttered and more innocent than it is now. It's too slow to engage but it's well observed and offers a few minor pleasures along the way.

Bronco Bullfrog at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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