For those of you who aren’t familiar with this film, ‘Chicken’ is the feature film debut of director Joe Stephenson. The film focuses on a fifteen year old boy named Richard and his brother Polly. The film has earned itself some very high praise and cleaned up at many of the film festivals. It had been on my radar for a while so I’m very pleased that I can now review it for you all.
The narrative for this film is very much driven by its characters. Richard who is played by Scott Chambers has learning difficulties and longs to settle down somewhere whilst his brother Polly is rather reckless and seems to still be searching for more in life. Firstly the performances are all wonderful here, completing the trio of leads in ‘Chicken’ is actress Yasmin Paige who offers a balance to the film which wouldn’t have been achieved without her. Paige brings a refreshing normality to the film which almost acts as an escapism for both characters and viewers who know that all isn’t that good for Richard and Polly. Polly is played by Morgan Watkins and although his character could have been fairly one dimensional thanks to the writing and Watkins’s portrayal of the character it is anything but this. Although the audience will mostly sympathise with Richard, Watkins offers a thought provoking performance that means he too can be sympathised with. Chambers is very much the star of the show though, he makes Richard so likeable and meets the huge responsibility of carrying a lot of the films weight on his shoulders. If he hadn’t of nailed this performance the film just wouldn’t have worked. Thankfully there is never any fear of this as from start to finish Chambers is brilliant.
Despite the short running time of the film I did find it a little slow to start. However, looking back on the film having watched it all this really doesn’t matter. The slower start is necessary to introduce characters and settings. At the start you’ll wonder how a whole film will be built around these scenes but by the end you’ll wonder why you ever doubted it. The narrative is, as I say, character driven but it continually builds as the film progresses. The more we care for our characters the more we learn about them and this story is a mighty powerful one which at times can be hard to watch, demanding an emotional response from the audience. Don’t worry though it’s not all bogged down in the deep emotional drama as there is plenty of humour too. The script is written in a way that makes conversations between characters very engaging and a joy to listen too and as the title may suggest these conversations aren’t always just between humans! Just like the variety of tones in the film there is also a range of filming techniques used and this helped to keep the pace of the film brisk. Whether scenes were shot from a distance, very close to the characters or a combination of set ups I always appreciated the camera work.
So although ‘Chicken’ is the debut of Stephenson there is little to suggest so. The film boasts three superb performances, especially that of Scott Chambers, each bringing a crucial element of the narrative to life. The story is very effective in engaging, stimulating and affecting its audience and this is all packaged up nicely thanks to some fine editing and camerawork.
‘Chicken’ is available on We Are Colony from Friday 12th August.
Rating – 8/10
Question: What is your favourite film which was a directorial debut?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
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