Title: The Goob
Director: Guy Myhill
Major Players: Sean Harris, Liam Walpole
Out Of Five: 3.5
You’ve gotta feel sorry for Norfolk. First of all Steve Coogan’s gloriously monstrous Alan Partridge makes it, and Norwich itself, a laughing stock. Now, in The Goob, former documentary maker Guy Myhill sets his first feature film in a dilapidated rural corner of the county. And a miserable place it is too.
It’s where 16 year old Taylor (Liam Walpole) is growing up. He’s left school and is back home, helping his mum prepare her roadside café for the approaching tourist season. Mother and son get on fine, but between them is the ominous shape of her boyfriend Gene Womack (Sean Harris), a hard drinking farmer-come-stock car racer with little time for the boy, who he nicknames The Goob. And when the lad is involved in a prank that results in Womack’s precious racing car being damaged, things go from bad to worse. And the mother has to choose.
If urban speak isn’t your first language, you’re probably wondering what a goob is. It’s somebody who thinks they’re funny or cool, but actually they’re awkward and weird. Unsurprisingly, Womack hasn’t given the boy the nickname out of affection, although it doesn’t totally suit him. Sure, he’s awkward and a bit strange, but he’s a teenage boy, all elbows and knees, doesn’t have a huge amount to say for himself and has even less in the way of social skills. But he doesn’t see himself as especially cool or funny. He’s more concerned with avoiding a beating from Womack and trying to figure out how to get away from an increasingly nasty situation.
This sparse, bleak coming of age tale is told through Goob’s eyes and he watches the domineering Womack so closely that we’re left in no doubt as to the kind of man he is. He’s only interested in racing, drink and sex and getting as much of all three as possible. At the same time he controls the boy’s mother and does everything he can think of to humiliate and undermine her son. One of Goob’s jobs is keeping watch over the pumpkin field by spending the night in a hide, buried deep in the ground. He was made to dig the hole first, though.
Writer/director Myhill has given us something sparse for his first feature film. The landscape is bleakly flat with little sunlight and is underlined with an eerie electronic score reminiscent of Pink Floyd. The dialogue is equally sparse, giving the actors minimal lines to work with in creating their characters. Local boy Walpole and Sean Harris respond best. Harris is at his most despicable as the bullying Womack who never lifts a finger to do any work, concentrating instead on raising bottles of beer to his lips. And the gangly Walpole has a face that pleads for a life that’s better than the one he has.
A question – not for the director, but for the British Board Of Film Classification. Why has the film been given an 18 certificate? Yes, the language is strong, but only marginally worse than you’d hear in an 15 certificate. There’s a couple of sex scenes, but nothing shockingly graphic, and one brief moment of male nudity. There was nothing that I could see which merited an 18, so it’s a rating that’s as questionable as it is baffling.
The Goob is released in selected cinemas on Friday, 29 May.