3.5 out of 10
Release date: 5th November 2011 (DVD Premiere)
Director: Brett Harvey (Brown Willy)
Cast: Esther Hall, Dominic Coleman, Simon Harvey, Dean Nolan, Daniel Harvey and Dudley Sutton
Writer: Brett Harvey
Trailer: Not available
The Harvey Brothers are probably the closest the Duchy of Cornwall has to auteurs at the time of writing. A merry band of filmmakers who have so far made a clutch or documentaries, shorts and two fictional features. Weekend Retreat was their first, and the much improved follow up was Brown Willy. Their feature debut shows a lot of promise and some of the quirks and invention they’d apply to the second film, alas, as much as you’d like Weekend Retreat to be a winner, it largely flops due to the same damining factors that trip up so many low-budget filmmakers – a ropey script, weird plotting and uneven acting from a mixture of industry pros and locals.
A warring couple, Esther Hall (BLACK MIRROR) and Dominic Coleman (COLD FEET) turn up at a holiday cottage. Unfortunately, on the same day, two dim-witted brothers, Simon Harvey (BROWN WILLY) and DEAN NOLAN (TIN) turn up at the house to burgle the dreaded ‘second-home’ owner, Dudley Sutton (ORLANDO). A caper ensues that sees switched allegiances wreck everybody’s plans, and the idea of a peaceful break goes out of the window as things get comically out of control.
Weekend Retreat starts with an extended flashback, which anyone who had holidays in Cornwall growing up will love, as it features the desolate children theme park Flambards. Two young brothers go around on several rides before facing the 40ft ‘Wall of Death’ which seems to be the defining moment in the burglars’ lives. This is a wonderfully presented scene and its a shame that rest of the film rarely gains these levels of entertainment again. A scene about halfway through when one of the burglars gives a shoulder to cry on, and unexpected comfort to Esther Hall at the climax of an exhausting chase is the best bit by miles and is possibly the main reason for watching this muddled debut. It’s a film which demonstrates the stories potential, and also the opportunities missed to make this a truly funny break out picture. As it is Weekend Retreat remains a little-known curio which fans of Brown Willy may go and seek out to get more of the same. Unfortunately, these guys were still only learning the trade and had quite a way to go before they got it right. On the plus side, it takes some filmmakers ages to get a good film made, check out Steve M Smith or Steve Lawson, who put out lots of films, all terrible with no sign of improvement on the horizon. The Harvey Brothers well and truly upped their game by scaling back with Brown Willy, coming up with a smaller cast, and concentrating on the craft of presenting a humourous film, with a great soundtrack and some of the best landscape cinematography I’ve seen in a no-budget film.
A good try, but I’m afraid despite the ‘real’ actors on duty, Weekend Retreat is largely a patience tester and could have been much funnier. Here’s to future projects though, because there is evidence of talent on the rise here.
3.5 out of 10 – Clunky, mildly funny marriage farce, tripped up by lethargic plotting and uneven acting. Stick to the Harvey Brothers’ second film Brown Willy. Much funnier, much better.
Review below by Matt Usher
WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?
- Esther Hall: Black Mirror (TV), Mount Pleasant (TV), Doctors (TV), Rome (TV), Waking The Dead (TV), Spooks (TV), Queer As Folk (TV), Land Girls
- Dominic Coleman: The Devil Went Down To Islington, Cold Feet (TV), Paddington, We Are The Freaks, Sex Lives of the Potato Men
- Simon Harvey: Brown Willy
- Dean Nolan: Tin
- Dudley Sutton: Tin, Fall of An Empire, Cockneys Vs. Zombies, Outside Bet, The Shouting Men, Lovejoy (TV), Dean Spanley, Eastenders (TV), The Football Factory, The Tichborne Claimant, Incognito (1997), Orlando, Edward II, The Rainbow, The Devils, The London Connection, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, The Leather Boys