Title: Borrowed Time
Director: Jules Bishop
Major Players: Phil Davis, Theo Barklem-Biggs, Juliet Oldfield
Out Of Five? 4
The cinematic grey market is still alive and kicking. After a brief hiatus following Robot And Frank in the spring, the next wave of films with older people in mind has arrived. We had RED 2 last month, with Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins and now it’s the turn of low-budget British flick, Borrowed Time. And, while it’s not specifically targeted at the older market, age is most definitely one of its themes.
This is an odd couple story, one of an unlikely friendship that comes about in the least promising of circumstances. Hapless Kevin (Theo Barklem-Biggs) has no money, no job and a track record of stealing, even from his family. He foolishly becomes involved with local hard man, “Ninja” Nigel (Warren Brown), who pursues him to recover a debt. So, in a desperate attempt to re-pay it, Kevin burgles the house of an eccentric pensioner, Philip (Phil Davis) – or, at least, he tries to.
While the film is very much in the tradition of gritty British drama, at its heart it’s a comedy and a warm hearted one at that. But it doesn’t pull its punches in its depiction of inner city London life – rampant graffiti, faceless, grey housing estates – and the products of those surroundings, represented by Kevin’s mates. A group of aimless teenagers, they appear at the outset to be yet another gang of hoodies: they’re certainly adept at causing trouble, but they’re not as bad as they seem. When they discover Kevin is being pursued by Nigel, they try to help. Admittedly, they don’t choose the most sensible – or legal – of ways, but their misguided hearts are in the right place.
But the grim surroundings have other results. The older people who live there are a million miles away from the ones we saw in Quartet or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. They have little money but, most significantly of all, they’re angry with the world and downright aggressive. You wouldn’t want to tangle with the old lady on the mobility scooter!
Nor would you want to get in the way of Philip, who catches Kevin in the act of burgling his house by silently descending the staircase on his Stannah, armed with an antique – but still working – blunderbuss. An ex-schoolteacher, he only has his extensive collection of stuffed animals for company, having lived through the death of his wife and a bout of alcoholism. But his crabby exterior conceals a spark of warmth which grows as the film progresses.
Phil Davis is terrific in the role and, even though the close-ups show that he’s a little too young for it, his performance is such that it really doesn’t matter. It’s a well-rounded piece of acting, with some wonderful comic moments, including a running gag on a Dirty Harry theme with a rather crucial change to Callaghan’s most famous line.
Director/writer Jules Bishop gets nicely natural performances from the younger members of the cast. As Kevin, Theo Barklem-Biggs has the wide-eyed, bewildered expression of somebody who is easily led into trouble. Yet he has the capacity to do more with his life and be a caring brother to his sister (a feisty Juliet Oldfield) and uncle to her little boy (scene-stealing Ted Cozzolino).
Despite its setting and the circumstances of the characters, Borrowed Time is a life-affirming comedy and there is plenty to laugh at, even if that laughter is accompanied by a benevolent shake of the head. A low-budget film, it’s likely to only be in selected cinemas. Seek it out. You won’t be disappointed.
Borrowed Time opens in key cities around the UK on Friday, 13 September.