Brassed Off

Director: Mark Herman

Suffering from yet another ill-conceived marketing campaign (this time by Miramax) that advertised the film as a laugh-a-minute UK comedy in the tradition of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Mark Herman’s brilliantly social-minded atypical drama (with some inclusions of absurd humor) calls attention to the devastating loss of over 250,000 jobs by the Tory Party’s closing of several mines over the last twenty years. Alternately angry and inspiring, the film avoids any Norma Rae similarities by instead focusing more of its energy outside of the workplace by centering around the Grimley Colliery Brass Band, led by ailing, elder Pete Postlethwaite, who finds that his loyal band that’s been a staple for a century is beginning to crumble under the pressure of the upcoming vote for or against redundancy or keeping the mine open at the risk of both jobs and band member’s families. At the heart of the film, there are some bright bursts of humor and life with the arrival of Tara Fitzgerald as Gloria, a musician who returns to her hometown and tries to join the all-male band which contains her former flame, Andy (Ewan MacGregor), providing the film with a valuable romantic subplot diversion from the overwhelming drama and sadness brought forth by the story of Phil (Stephen Tompkinson) as Postlethwaite’s son who loses his family, dignity and optimism during the taxing time. The film’s name, similar to France’s 400 Blows, is a slang term for being upset or fed up with one’s place in life and the film is a bitter call to attention to a government that many of the miners feel have betrayed them over the years and the ending of the film ends on a bittersweet note that I defy one to view without tears. This worthwhile film earned prizes across the globe including accolades from the Tokyo International Film Festival, Paris Film Festival, Lumiere Awards, German Film Festival, France’s Cesar Awards, among others including three award nominations in its own British homeland.