It’s impossible not to be charmed and touched by Pond Life, directed by Bill Buckhurst.
Gone Fishingby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Pond Life subtly draws you into the sunlit peace of an idyllic summer in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, and then it tugs at your heartstrings as it quietly reveals so much going on beneath the surface of people’s lives. Sensitively adapted by Richard Cameron from his stage play, the screenplay vividly creates families of child and adult characters living in the back-to-backs in the small mining village. It’s 1994, pre-mobile phones, Tony Blair is on the television making his acceptance speech as leader of the Labour Party, and for our characters there’s growing up to do and painful truths to be faced.
There’s a rumour of a giant carp in the pond. Late-teen Trev (Tom Varey) leads a group of local kids to fish for it at night. His father has remarried and there’s no room in the house for him any more with his new family, so he feels it’s time for him to leave home and get a job in town. Trev is kind and protective, sharing a love of fishing and taping with the much younger Pogo (Esme Creed-Miles), an imaginative girl who carries her cassette recorder around to make audio pictures of her surroundings. Two young boys Shane (Gianlucca Galluci) and Dave (Ethan Wilkie) supply the comedy but they find their friendship tested in the course of the night’s fishing. Awkward video-gamer Malcolm (Angus Imrie) has a hopeless crush on out-of-his-league neighbour Cassie (Daisy Edgar-Jones), whose boyfriend Maurice (Abraham Lewis) comes with a warning from Trev, which she ignores.
And while the children are finding out about themselves and relationships, their parents too, both married and single, are tentatively seeing how they can relate to each other as they socialise at bingo nights in the close-knit community’s club, with music, dancing and some light relief from the bingo caller.
Cinematography by Nick Cooke is stunning. Richard Hawley’s music creates the bittersweet mood. Debut director Bill Buckhurst, an actor himself, has got fabulous performances from all the children. Esme Creed-Miles (Dark River), the film’s centre, in particular is outstanding as someone who finds joy despite her pain.
Pond Life is not one of those eccentric, nostalgic British films, it’s a lovely, low-key film that’s so much more. It’s impossible not to be charmed and touched by it.
Pond Life is released on 26 April 2019 in the UK.