Side By Side (2013)

October 4th, 2013
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Arthur Landon, Cast: Bel Powley, Alfie Fields, Sara Stewart, Diana Quick, Mark Powley

UK 2012, 103 min  Drama

Lauren, a teenager and her younger brother Harvey live with their mentally impaired grandmother, who is their legal guardian in this British film that has a ‘made-for-TV’ feel to it.  Living in constant fear of her going into a care home, matters are further complicated by the fact that Lauren is a gifted runner. Her untrustworthy agent Janice is trying to split the siblings up so that Lauren can live with her (and so pay for her daughter’s university education), whilst Harvey would end up with foster parents. When the dreaded day of grandma’s sectioning arrives, Lauren and Harvey run  away – with an address of a long-lost grandfather, somewhere in Scotland.

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SIDE BY SIDE is an imaginatively told ‘coming of age’ family drama, but there are some questions to be asked. Harvey is obsessed with video games, he meets some adult gamers via the net, and they help the siblings on their way north. Not only that, but they split the reward for their capture with Harvey – so the two then set out again for another search at the end of the film. Should a child really be encouraged to have contact with adults, whose background and intentions are not known? And would a psychiatrist really give the siblings the address of a family member, knowing very well that the two will elope again?

But the acting of the youngsters (Bel Powley and Alfie Fields), and in particularly Sara Stewart’s blond ”witch” Janice, who is defeated by the solidarity of the children, are convincing, and the camera tries to get away from showing only the bright spots of this country. The storyline sides always with the outsiders, as in the encounter of Lauren and Harvey with a helpful tinker, who is shown in a much more positive light than all the authority figures of the film. Overall, SIDE BY  SIDE a modern fairytale, told with  humour and optimism, and like all good fairy stories, with lots of improbabilities. Andre  Simonoviescz

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