Release Date: December 2011

Director: Paul Andrew Williams (Song For Marion / The Cottage / London To Brighton)

Cast: Racheal Blake, Jumayne Hunter, Ashley Chin, Tom Butcher, Sonny Muslim Kieran Dooner, Corrine Douglas, Tom Kane and Jennie Jacques

Writer: Paul Andrew Williams




One thought on “CHERRY TREE LANE


    This Paul Andrew Williams chap seems to be building up an intriguing, if patchy CV. Previous form includes the frankly stupid THE COTTAGE and the acclaimed LONDON TO BRIGHTON. A SONG FOR MARION is currently in cinemas, and he seems to be working with Jennifer Aniston on his next one. And in the middle we find CHERRY TREE LANE, an ordinary everyday story about some middle-aged middle-class folk being attacked in their own home.
    Rachael Blake (from Home and Away) and Tom Butcher (this week’s actor from The Bill) star as a couple going through a bit of a bad patch (or maybe it’s always like this for them) (I mean sniping, and ignoring each other and being more interested in the news; not the whole being tied up and tortured bit, that’s probably quite unusual for them) when there’s a knock at the door. In bursts a bunch of urchins, intent on vengeance against the couple’s son (Sebastian has squealed to the rozzers apparently). They invite themselves in to await his return. (By invite I mean ruthlessly beat the couple up.) The intruders are little more than children, but have perhaps the worst characteristics of children and young adults: they are greedy, incredibly thick and have yet to develop empathy, but they have developed cruelty and a thorough understanding of how to terrorise people in their own home. It all ends in tears and blood.
    I haven’t seen either of Haneke’s FUNNY GAMES films which I guess this film resembles (Haneke may or may not be a genius but he doesn’t need me to pass judgement, I have no wish to squirm through yet another of his meisterwerke – three is more than enough), but we seem to be in one of those Haneke-like worlds where cruelty and violence are their own rewards. Early on the film is very static, with long shots of seemingly banal things like saucepans and beds. This turns out to be something that occurs throughout the film – the camera looks on dispassionately whilst whatever is happening happens. This means that a great deal of the violence (and there seems to be a lot of it) happens off camera. This is both a good and bad thing. Good in that we’re not voyeuristically watching people getting chopped up or clobbered, and bad in that it leaves us to voyeuristically imagine them being chopped up or clobbered. The film’s other main claim to arthouse status is that it appears to be told in real-time (though it doesn’t go about it with the literal clunkiness of CUT, which couldn’t resist panning over to the clock whenever it could). Oh, and it’s one of those films which, with its lack of frills pretends to be objective and non-manipulative. And yet, in its closing moments it turns out to be more manipulative than your average Hollywood weepie.
    The above may suggest that I didn’t think much of the film. This would be wrong. I can’t say I’m a fan as such, as I hope never to have to sit through it again in all my born days, but that’s not because it’s a bad film. Quite the contrary. But it is an unsettling film. It feels relentlessly credible. And it is a film which leaves you wondering what you would do in such a situation.
    Purely in terms of the film as a piece of drama there is little to be faulted. The only misjudgement is a bit where one of the gang is looking at the DVDs on the bookcase, accompanied by some piano music; it looks like he’s playing the piano in slow motion. (The music is a bit of a weak point – the closing music, by someone called UNKLE is weirdly out of kilter with the film, and sounds more like something you’d put in a generic slasher movie.)The film is well paced, moving from the humdrum of a petty family squabble to intense violence, to petty squabbles between the intruders and back to intense violence with all the inevitability of both real life and also, weirdly, an ancient Greek play. (Yes, CHERRY TREE LANE obeys the unities of time, place and action as laid out by (I think) Aristotle, which is always nice to see when it works, and utter torture when it doesn’t.) It’s also a rare film which leaves you wondering what happens next, as the story is far from over. I also like the fact that in some ways the character dynamics at the end are no different from the start.
    Tom Butcher (who I didn’t recognise from his decade at Sun Hill, and who spends most of his time tied up on the floor) is the epitome of the vaguely hopeless husband, humiliated and helpless and unable to do the right thing even when he’s doing the right thing. Rachael Blake is excellent as the wife, and you genuinely fear for her fate (she spends a large portion of the film out of shot).
    The troublesome trio comprise Ashley Chin (as the almost nice one), Sonny Muslim (as the quite incredibly thick one) and Jumayn Hunter as the brains of the operation. I suppose they are your worst (realistic) nightmare in that being beaten up by these no-hopers would be (a) utterly horrible but also (b) a bit embarrassing as they’re (a) dumb and (b) behaving as if this is a normal way of going about things. All three actors successfully negotiate the tricky line between being out of control teenagers and young men who think they’re older and smarter than they are. In between bouts of violence, they’re eating biscuits, or squabbling over the remote control, or phoning home to get mum to record a programme. One might even dare to suggest that they get it all from TV and films where violence and dinner seem to be of equal moral weight. Just as their depravity seems to have got as far as it’s likely to go, they are joined by acolytes (one with an axe, but then it is scream-queen Jennie Jacques, who should probably turn up in all her films equipped with an axe). And they’ve brought a child with them.
    Disturbing, depressing, cathartic (in a very wrong way), this is not just some urban thriller designed to give you nightmares. It is also a thoughtful study of violence and why people do it with such freedom. Through its own subtle manipulations it makes the viewer not just an objective judge, but also a participant. Do see this film, just don’t expect a night of popcorn and happy horror.

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