Film Review: Brighton (2019)

Based on a Steven Berkoff play, Brighton proves a candidate for one of the worst films I’ve ever seen

“We should have gone to Southend”

Sometimes, you just have to say, what the fuck do you think you’re doing. Stephen Cookson’s film Brighton, adapted from Steven Berkoff’s 1994 play Brighton Beach Scumbags, is one of those times. I suppose there is a film to be made about the fragility of British national identity in ageing white heterosexuals but this sure as hell isn’t it.

What’s worse is that you’ve got a top notch cast here. The two main couples having a jaunt back to the town where they met some 40-odd years ago are played by Lesley Sharp and Phil Davis, and Marion Bailey and Larry Lamb, fine actors all, who should be hanging their heads in shame for signing up to this horribly dated and downright nasty piece of work.

Such is the time that some people feel they can just call ‘cancel culture’ and ignore any criticism and that is possibly the target audience here. The rest of us would ponder how Berkoff thought that writing this level of uninterrogated xeno- and homophobia into his characters was OK then, never mind Cookson’s decision to revive and update them here (to 2005, so pre-Brexit if not UKIP).

Through flashbacks to their initial meetings and a cackhanded attempt at a touch of justice towards the end, there is an attempt to show how these characters have been defined by their pasts. But with barely any hints of depths being explored, they’re just closer to filthy-mouthed caricatures, encouraging watchers to laugh along rather than at the abuse they hurl at those who they perceive as different. Horrendous. 

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