VOD film review: Gutterbug
Sense of place7
Matthew Turner | On 16, Sep 2020
Director: Andrew Gibson
Cast: Andrew Yackel, Hannah Mosqueda, Justin Pietropaolo, Paul Kandarian, Mary Hronicek, Geoff Van Wyck
Watch Gutterbug online in the UK: Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play / Sky Store
Co-written and directed by Andrew Gibson, this engaging indie drama stars Andrew Yackel as Stephen “Bug” Bugsby, a punk and drug addict who’s been living on the streets of Boston since running away from home on his 18th birthday. After three years in a drug-fuelled haze, he decides to try and reconcile with his mum (Mary Hronicek) and dad (Paul Kandarian), but his attempts to return home spiral into disaster.
Part of the pleasure of Gutterbug lies in the reveal of its smartly conceived structure. Suffice it to say that it’s established early on that Bug has been in a car accident and a large part of the story is him flashing back to his past while recuperating in hospital. (His occasional voiceover initially borders on pretentious, but the eventual explanation for it makes complete sense.)
As indicated by the film’s sense of place, the score for the film is brilliant, encompassing several local Boston punk bands as well as better known artists such as Modest Mouse and Guerilla Toss. Gibson’s direction is also excellent throughout, from his faithful recreation of the underground Boston basement punk scene – including real bands such as Nice Guys, Beeef and Black Beach – to the way the pace accelerates towards the end, in line with Bug’s unintentional ingestion of a large amount of speed. The effect is of a life spinning out of control and it’s almost painful to watch in places, with at least one genuinely shocking moment.
Yackel is terrific as Bug, finding sympathy for the character even in his worst moments. He also has strong chemistry with co-star Hannah Mosqueda, who plays Bug’s girlfriend and fellow punk, Jenny. There’s strong support from Geoff Van Wyck (an increasingly familiar face) as Bug’s wise-cracking pusher, Raleigh, and from Justin Pietropaolo as his dangerously unstable buddy, Slim, the sort of person whose very presence spells immediate disaster – think Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, but on crazy amounts of drugs.
In addition to nailing both the exciting crime-gone-wrong elements and the various emotional connections, Gibson and co-writer Chris Tobin’s script touches upon a number of emotive issues without getting too heavy-handed in the messaging. These include homelessness – an early montage does a great job of spelling out why the system is stacked against those of no fixed abode who want to work – drug addiction, mental health and suicidal impulses, as well as the dangers of toxic friendships.
In short, this is a smartly directed, superbly acted and emotionally engaging indie drama that marks out writer-director Andrew Gibson as a potential talent to watch. Worth seeing.