It’s difficult to write a piece about a film from Northern England without a mandatory reference to either Ken Loach or Shane Meadows. With Athale’s debut feature, however, he manages to lay down his own filmmaking identity with this really interesting piece that was filmed primarily around West Yorkshire.
We begin with Harvey Miller (Treadaway), a 22-year-old man who’s sitting beaten and bruised in front of DI West (Spall) in a police interrogation room. He’s been arrested on an allegation of assault, and is told by West that with him being on parole he is advised to be as honest as possible in his recollection of what has just happened. Miller admits that it may take some time, but with a nod of allowance from West we regress six weeks previously where Miller is walking out of prison after 12 months inside on a possession charge.
On the outside he’s quick to meet up with former friends, the first of whom is Dempsey (Rheon), a cocky 20-something with a notable swagger who compared to the quiet Miller is a sharp contrast. Joining the pair in a nightclub that evening are Dodd (Lewis) and Charlie (Kearns), and it’s not long before Miller has caught up with a former flame in the shape of Nicola (Kirby).
We soon discover that while Miller has been in the joint, he’s been formulating a plan to exact revenge on the person who he believes is the reason for him getting sent down in the first place. The man in question is local drug kingpin Steven Roper (the excellent Maskell), a notorious name for the police, but someone who they find difficult to pin any specific crime on due to the canny way he runs his criminal empire. The plan is to steal £50,000 from Roper, and who better to ensure its success than his three friends.
The Rise played most of the festivals as Wasteland, which I must confess I prefer as a title – it fits the film better, given its portrayal of working class Northern England. Characters such as Charlie epitomise the frustration of having a trade like welding, but who remain unemployed and live in deluded hope of their factory reopening. Its Northern setting is very much the star of the film, but that’s credit to director Athale and cinematographer Stuart Bentley for making great use if the desolate industrial landscape.
There is a tendency to pre-judge an entry into the British crime genre based on the conveyor belt of the number entries in recent years. Athale’s film, however, manages to remain ambitious, intelligent and neatly constructed whilst also giving us well written characters for whom we genuinely care about.
EXTRAS ★★★ Interviews with the cast and crew (26:10). The interviews are illuminating and the actors and crew are engaging, giving their thoughts on the script, the production and the filmmaking process.