The Goob (2014)
*****Contains plot spoilers*****
My previous post was about a rare trip to the cinema. This film was the reason that we made the effort.
Two of my oldest friends have a son who is a film producer. I have known them since we were eleven years old, so of course have also known Lee Groombridge since he was born. I was excited to hear that he was working on a film set in and around Norfolk; filmed not far from where we live, and starring many local actors too. I got the chance to visit him on set at Swaffham Raceway, as they were filming the banger racing scene. The film then went on to be nominated for numerous awards, winning the BIFA for best production, and the ‘Golden Hitchcock’ for best film at the Dinard Film Festival. I was suitably envious when Lee received the trophy from the wonderful Catherine Deneuve. There were also many very positive reviews from film critics, and it was well-received when it opened in Norwich.
So, I had personal reasons to want to see it. Nonetheless, I would not think of giving a sycophantic, or overly flattering review, just because of the connection. But just what is a ‘Goob’? I found this, and it gives a fair idea of the meaning.
Slang definitions & phrases for goob Expand
A tedious, contemptible person; dork, nerd: Nerds can be ”goobs” or ”tools”/ A Goob-a-tron’s Guide to Rad Speak
[1980s+ Students & teenagers; fr goober]
Newcomer Liam Walpole plays the title character. How he got the role is like a scene from another film. Unemployed, wandering off to the shops in Dereham where he lived, (and where Julie works) he quite literally bumped into the casting director, who suggested he audition for the role.
The Goob has just finished school, and plans to spend the summer helping his Mum run a dilapidated roadside cafe next to the busy A47 trunk road. (The real cafe used is the Necton Diner, closed for years now) He and his brother are barely tolerated by their Mum’s live-in boyfriend Womack, played by Sean Harris. (Also originally from this area) Harris is well-known to TV audiences here for playing nasty roles as a hard man, psychopathic killer, and anything requiring snarling and unpleasantness. And he has the look and demeanour to suit these roles down to the ground. He also played one of the crew in the film ‘Prometheus’, where again, he wasn’t very nice.
He has other plans for them, and wants help running his sideline as a gang-master, recruiting and overseeing groups of foreign workers, brought in to pick the crops in the vast farmlands of the Fens. He is also a star of the local banger racing circuit, and as ruthless on the track as he is off of it. The Goob’s Mum is dependent on him, as her business is failing, and she also enjoys the sexual attentions she receives, choosing to ignore his blatant philandering with any other woman he can get his hands on. As the summer hots up, the scene is set for the inevitable clash of personalities, as the younger men begin to come of age, and Womack reacts to everything and everyone with brutal violence. In a funny and realistic scene, the brothers steal his beloved banger racing car, when he is busy having sex with their Mum. He chases them in an off-road vehicle, and rams them off the path, resulting in the older of the two brothers ending up in hospital, wearing numerous plaster casts.
Womack recruits a reluctant Goob to keep watch on a pumpkin field at night, and he also encounters the latest group of East European pickers, including a pretty young girl who the gang-master also has his eye on. We have already had some insight into the young man’s lack of sexual experience, during an awkward date with one of the local good-time girls at the Raceway. Because of his brother’s accident, the Goob’s Mum enlists the help of Eliot, the son of a friend, played by Oliver Kennedy. He arrives in the cafe like a breath of fresh air. Obviously gay, full of fun, and carrying none of the heavy weight of the disaffected life of the young East Anglians. He has no fear of Womack, enjoys a spliff, and makes friends with everyone. It is soon obvious that Goob has confused feelings, as he is as drawn to both Eliot and crop-picker Eva (Marama Corlett) in equal measure. It seems his sexuality is yet to be fully defined, until one night, an unpleasant episode more or less makes the decision for him.
Eliot finds a dress belonging to Goob’s Mum Janet (Sienna Guillory) hanging on the washing line. he puts it on, and goes dancing into the cafe, playing for laughs with the family and staff. Womack sees this, and is furious. He and his sidekick bundle Eliot into a car, and drive him to a remote spot in the countryside. Once there, they force him to strip, and leave him there, having to walk back late at night, completely naked. Eliot can see that he has to get away, and arranges for Goob to bring his things to a local bus stop. When the first bus arrives, he departs for good.
Goob now turns his attentions to Eva, and they become lovers, with him losing his virginity in one of the surrounding fields. During a boozy party held for the pickers, Womack decides to try to have his way with Eva, but she fights him off. Enraged, Goob finally stands up to this horrible man, using an old dump-truck to wreck his cherished race car. Womack attacks him, beating him badly, until Eva and Janet intervene to stop the assault. Eva tells Goob to leave with her and her fellow pickers, but he wants to stay with his Mum to protect her. However, the dependent woman chooses Womack instead, and the boy is then alone. He rides off on his old motorcycle, to an uncertain future.
This film belies its low budget, with a convincing cast, unusual and authentic locations, and some excellent cinematography. At under ninety minutes, the running time suits the story, and any edits are not apparent in that they affect the flow. Despite an early fondness for the jumpy, hand-held style made popular by pop videos and ‘found-footage’ films, much of the camera work and lighting is superb. At times, I was reminded of Mallick’s ‘Days of Heaven’, and ‘Badlands’. There was also a feel of the French New Wave, with echoes of ‘Jules et Jim’, and of course, there is an undeniable comparison to the films of Ken Loach, and Shane Meadows. I should add a warning for very bad language, but removing this would affect the reality of life for the characters. The violence is not excessive, and no more than you would see on a popular TV show.
This film will take its place alongside many similar British dramas, as a fine example of social realism, showing the drudgery of life for the people on the edges of society, living in the farmlands and fenlands of the east of England; a place forgotten by the rest of the country. This is the first full-length feature for writer and director Guy Myhill. It shows great promise, and with his eye for scenery, sets, and casting, I have no doubt that we will be seeing more from him. It is also an excellent debut from lead actor Liam Walpole, who could well have a great future.
Here is the official trailer.