Dir.: Bill Buckhurst; Cast: Tom Varley, Esme Creed-Miles, Angus Imrie, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Abraham Levis, Ethan Wilkie, Gianluca Galucci, Sian Brooke; UK 2017, 100 min.
Bill Buckhurst sets his feature debut in a mining village near Doncaster, South Yorkshire in 1994. Based on scriptwriter’s Richard Cameron play of the same name, it On the surface it’s a gentle comedy, but beware there are unknown depths, and not just in the pond.
Trev (Varley) is spending his last summer in the village where his best friend Pogo (Creed-Miles) is acting strangely, even for a teenager. Cassie (Edgar-Jones) on the other hand, is a fully fledged adolescent, all strops and tantrums if she does not get her way, and in she’s fallen for Maurice (Levis), a rather dubious figure. To make matters worse, her Ex, Malcolm (Imrie) has not come to terms with things, and is stalking her. Two pre-pubescence boys, Dave (Wilkie) and Shane (Galucci) are also suffering from hormonal changes, and spend their time watching Cassie and Maurice in the high grass, or nicking Cassie’s stockings and suspenders. Adults play a secondary role in Pond Life, like Pogo’s Mum (Brooke), who is suffering from a depression.
Meanwhile Tom is an expert fisherman, and come nightfall, takes them all out fishing to catch the mystical beast, they call Nessie. When Pogo’s line pulls, she decides – against the odds – to put the fish back into the water. And the following morning, finds out that Trevor had already left, and all is not well with Maurice.
There’s nothing really happening in the village, except for some slot machines and and a ropey old cafe. The adults tend to meet up in the Miners Club, where they reminisce about a weird guy called Tony Blair, who has just become leader of the Labour Party, and wants to live in Number Ten. “Fat chance”, is the overwhelming comment of the crowd.
Although watchable enough Pond Life still feels rather stagey and this somehow limits its filmic scope on the big screen. DoP Nick Cooke, struggles to find innovative angles in this rather down beaten environment whose dilapidated settings hark back to the mining crisis which has cast a deep melancholy on everything that moves, (and doesn’t). And whilst this atmosphere of total abandonment is captured rather well, the threadbare narrative strains to keep our attention for the full running time. Pond Life wants very much to be liked, but in the end, tries too hard. AS
ON RELEASE ON 12 APRIL 2019