Written and directed by Guy Myhill, The Goob is a memorable British coming of age drama with an unusually strong sense of place in its rural setting.
School's Out For Summerby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Flat Norfolk landscapes dominate this coming-of-age drama visually and psychologically. The big skies and flat fields as far as the eye can see in a soft summer sunlight create an isolated world where extreme behaviour can exist apart from the outside world and unchecked. Goob is Liam Walpole, impressive in his first film role. He’s 16 years old, ungainly, inarticulate, living with his faded blonde mother Janet (downtrodden Sienna Guillory), who owns a run-down diner, the only public place in remote fenland countryside. The film opens on the day Goob leaves school, ripping off his uniform on the school bus, then making his way home on his moped on narrow roads across endless fenlands. But he’s not yet equipped for adult life.
Janet is dominated by her brutal, psychopathic live-in partner Gene Womack (Sean Harris, terrific but typecast), a tattooed womaniser and bully, who resents Goob but has to tolerate him for her sake. He takes out his dislike on him by undermining and humiliating him remorselessly. He owns local farmlands – pumpkin fields – where he sets up a camp for immigrant farm workers, and he drives stock cars at the local track, until he’s banned for cheating. When Goob and his elder brother Rodney (Joe Copsey) take Womack’s car as a prank, his vicious retaliation lands Rodney in hospital. Janet is too drained and dominated by her relationship with Womack to defend her sons against him.
There’s an atmosphere of menace and a pervading feeling that things can’t end well. Sparky young Elliot (scene-stealing Oliver Kennedy) is drafted in as a temporary worker in the diner. It seems for a while that he is starting to trigger emotions in lonely Goob as the two become friends and share confidences. But Elliot’s natural exuberance is humilatingly crushed by Womack, making his premature departure inevitable and robbing Goob of his only ally. In fact, attractive Eva (feisty Marama Corlett), one of the new migrant workers, is the object of Goob’s affections and she takes his virginity matter of factly in the pumpkin field. But the underlying tragedy is that she has also attracted Womack’s attention. When he forces himself on her, it ends in a violent confrontation with Goob. It’s a fight Goob can’t win but in standing up to Womack he makes the first step towards growing up – though where this leads him, if anywhere, is left unclear.
In the mellow, yellow landscape events unfold episodically, hand-held-camera shot, jolting the impending drama forwards through the long hot summer. The wide fields, the hustle and clamour of the stock-car race track, the realistic portrayal of isolated rural society and its unusual characters all contribute to an image of rural England rarely seen on film. The countryside is moribund, its inhabitants seem trapped by their environment, somehow crushed and dwarfed by it. The adults don’t seem able to change or even aware of the possibility. And Goob? He rides off on his moped. But it’s not clear which direction he’s going in and he still seems unequipped for going anywhere else. It’s an unusual take on coming of age and a very interesting debut for writer/director Guy Myhill.
The Goob is released on 29th May 2015 in the UK