Netflix UK film review: The Violators
Ian Loring | On 18, Jun 2016
Director: Helen Walsh
Cast: Lauren McQueen, Brogan Ellis, Stephen Lord
Watch The Violators online in the UK: Netflix UK / We Are Colony / BFI Player / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
The only time you hear of Cheshire in pop culture seems to be in its communities of rich footballers living in their isolated slices of English rich life, but The Violators shows that life in the area is much like an awful lot of the country as a whole: dilapidated, broken and full of people aspiring to look after those close to them, but finding themselves prey to predators and a system which does little to help them.
Novelist Helen Walsh certainly brings plenty of lived-in feel to her writer/director efforts here, with her contrasting looks at two girls, one from a rougher local area, living in fear of her jailed father returning to seek more disgusting crimes against his family, and another from a broken home but in much more affluent circumstances, who takes a shine to the former for reasons that only seem clear to herself. Lauren McQueen gives a performance not unlike Kate Jarvis in Andrea Arnold’s similar Fish Tank, with a good deal of vulnerability underneath a very battle-hardened exterior; hers is a character who has really been through some stuff, but her priorities remain with her younger brother, Jerome (a solid performance from Callum King Chadwick).
McQueen takes her character to some rough, intensely uncomfortable places and shines there with little histrionics and instead a sense of resigned defeat painted across her face. Brogan Ellis gets less to do, her character essentially the stereotype of the bored rich girl stirring up trouble though third-act developments give her character ostensible depth which doesn’t feel earned by what has come before.
The chemistry between the two girls isn’t fantastic and Walsh never gives any compelling reasons why these girls become friendly and instead leaves it to simple plotting to fill in the blanks, a disappointment considering how effective the world-building is here. Developments surrounding a plot involving a little seen abusive father is also given some poor pay-off towards the end, with a Deus Ex Social Worker popping up intermittently to drive the thread towards a lacklustre conclusion.
On better form is Stephen Lord, who plays the ostensible villain, but feels like he could be ripped out of real life, a man looking to take advantage of those around him using intimidation, physical threat but also charm to get what he wants. His by turns kind and harrowing manner threatens to explode at any time, but never really does; things are kept on an even keel and it’s more effective for this.
It is a shame that the actual narrative beats of The Violators don’t live up to the rest of the film, as it does palpably make it a lesser experience. With strong performances and a world that is filled with truth, The Violators is worth a watch, but feels like it could have been more.
The Violators is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.