Bill Buckhurst (director)
26 April 2019 (released)
23 April 2019
Pond life can be a denigrating term thrown at people perceived to be dim, violent and usually in the lower income levels. There is some element of that in this film as it delves into the life of a village community near Doncaster in 1994, it’s inevitable.
But that is not the focus of writer Richard Cameron and debut director Bill Buckhurst who with a large cast, skilfully cover pre-teen curiosity, teen angst, young adult love, mental health, trauma and adult complications. It’s a delight. And the Pond Life here…is the quest to catch Nessie…the legendary giant carp in the nearby decoy ponds.
Through brief introductions with their names scribbled up on screen the large cast are shown going about their business. It’s the holidays and the weather is balmy so lovers take to the grass for a snog, to be spied on by youngsters who later on get turned on by a Eva Herzigova Wonderbra billposter!
There is the spurned, very awkward, boyfriend trying desperately to get back with the girl who finished with him and who is now snogging in the grass with the man whose brother is in prison. So you see it’s a close-knit community though that doesn’t necessarily mean they all get on.
There’s a number of different story threads but central is the relationship between Pogo (Esme Creed-Miles) and Trevor (Tom Varney). Pogo appears to be awarelessly eccentric blowing tunes on a kazoo, with a smile on her face and a heart of gold, while Trevor, hardened by events, has his own plans.
They aren’t ‘going out’ but the relationship is close and affectionate. As the film progresses it becomes clear that Pogo has other issues to contend with which makes her the target of bullies. She later breaks down in a powerful scene that underscores the understanding between her and Trevor.
Trevor has his own problems with his step-sister Cassie (Daisy Edgar-Jones) who has his bedroom and a father whose plucking up the courage to ask him to leave. There’s tension and a confrontation between Cassie and Trevor leads to revelations that have troubling repercussions. The writer and filmmaker’s skill here is that while there’s clearly a darker undercurrent it is not allowed to truly take hold and undermine the heart of the story.
What is also neatly blended in is the politics of the time. Tony Blair’s star is in ascendance and he is heard in the background and his ‘Crime and the causes of crime’ mantra is hilariously sent up at one point. And there’s the glancing shots of the closed colliery in the background and the boys playing on the grey drying slag heaps.
The cast are uniformly outstanding being a mixture of relative newcomers and old hands. With a strong story, efficiently told, tightly controlled and the authentic voice of a specific place and time it is just a wonderful film.