Happy New Year, Colin Burstead
Neil Maskell, Joe Cole, Alexandra Maria Lara, Charles Dance, Sam Riley, Sura Dohnke
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At a time when Wheatley’s native England is still in the middle of a pretty volatile separation period, this film’s examination of hostility, but also the need for peace, feels especially needed.
Of all the varyingly arbitrary reasons to bring the likely-estranged family together under one roof, New Year’s Eve might be the most arbitrary. As if the Earth completing yet another revolution around the Sun is some grand signal for change and that, whatever ill happened in the twelve months prior, things will somehow turn out differently this time. It’s a sentiment that sticks out of the treacliest of family dramas, and it’s one that brings out a serious fire in the latest from social satirist Ben Wheatley (A Field In England, High-Rise).
A family being brought together to ring in the New Year isn’t exactly the first thing most would think of in response to the phrase “Shakespeare adaptation”, but Wheatley has found genuine gold in what is essentially a deconstruction of the Bard’s Coriolanus. We truly live in the wrong timeline when the film’s original title, Colin You Anus, isn’t the one they ultimately went with.
Coriolanus dealt with war and the art of conquest, while Colin You Anus (let’s go with this title!) deals with something far scarier for the layman: Having to talk to relatives you only see once a year. Hell, listening to the characters themselves tell it, they aren’t even going to a family gathering; they’re preparing for a war. Plus-ones are treated like diplomatic allies, on-hand in case something nasty breaks out, needing to take an outside breather from the chaos is a “tactical withdrawal”, and while ostensibly an occasion meant to honour one of their own, everyone seems chomping at the bit to start verbal warfare with each other.
It’s a bare-bones flaying of the traditional family holiday flick, amped up by the production values on offer. Along with directing and penning the script, Wheatley also did the editing, which is so sharp and ever-moving that there is no real respite from the tensions within the castle this ‘party’ is taking place. Laurie Rose’s handheld cinematography gives a certain documentary feel to the proceedings, as if we’re watching a real family cave in on itself, and with Clint Mansell’s decidedly rustic folk soundtrack, it bridges the gap between the source material and this newer presentation. It even sounds like war drums preparing for the assault at times.
But beyond looking at the underlying hostility involved in such family exercises, it also engages in the microcosmic commentary of High-Rise. In showing a scenario where a group of people basically feel obliged to go to proverbial war with each other, it creates a larger perspective of what that kind of bloody-mindedness ultimately leads to. At a time when Wheatley’s native England is still in the middle of a pretty volatile separation period, this film’s examination of hostility, but also the need for peace, feels especially needed.