The NEDS tells a story of a young man's journey from prize winning schoolboy to knife carrying teenager. John McGill (Conor McCarron) struggles with the low expectations of those around him and events take a maddening turn as he descends into shocking violence on a seemingly one man mission of self destruction.
Powerful film that will leave you feeling seriously uncomfortable
- Neds review by RP
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Having recently seen Peter Mullan as the leading actor in 'Tyrannosaur' I sought out his other films, and came across 'Neds' which he both directed and takes a role as the drunken, abusive father. 'Neds', like so many others, is a gritty coming-of-age / rites of passage film of the social realist school, set on a council estate. But there similarities end, because this is *really* gritty, not some namby pamby cleaned up Technicolor version like for example 'Goodbye Charlie Bright'. Set in 1970s Glasgow, the accents so thick that I needed to use the subtitles, and with constant f-ing and blinding, this is a tale of adolescent gang culture which feels so close to life. It tells the tale of John McGill (very well played by newcomer Conor McCarron) who comes from an unpromising home background but is top of his class at primary school and who then goes on to secondary school where he is seen as a swot and bullied - but over the summer hols drops out and becomes a violent, knife wielding gang member. Violent, filled with rage and revenge, this film needs to be experienced rather than just reading this review. While it has weaknesses (does someone turn from a swot to a violent delinquent in six weeks? religious hallucination after glue sniffing?) this is a strong, powerful film that will leave you feeling seriously uncomfortable. Superb stuff - 5/5 stars.
Neds stands for Non-Educated Delinquents – a mob of youngsters who’d rather cut school and cut anyone in their way with a knife. They lord over the streets of 1970s Glasgow; such fans of violence that they incessantly inflict it upon its inhabitants without rhyme or reason. At the heart of ‘Neds’ is John McGill – played by Gregg Forest as the younger version and newcomer Conor McCarron for the rest of the film – a boy who starts out brilliant, even reads books that he gets in trouble with the Neds for it. John doesn’t want to be a cliché like his older brother Benny (Joe Szula), an equally respected and feared gangster among the Neds. Since John desires for a better life, it seems he will be bullied out of this ambition soon enough. It doesn’t help that his father (Peter Mullan who directed the film) is a fellow bully-drunk and wife-beater and his teachers give no encouragement, thinking him weird for even being smart. When John gets sucked into being a hooligan, his life turns into a study on what makes or breaks a person: Is it nature or nurture?
Director Peter Mullan doesn’t make films to entertain. His features are thought-provoking emotionally-charged, and uncomfortably real. Like his 2002 award-winning film ‘The Magdalene Sisters’, ‘Neds’ depicts the grittiness and brutality of not just the Neds but the parents, teachers, and a society that doesn’t seem to care. Even if the film is set in the 70s, the themes of teen rebellion escalating to criminality still pervade Glasgow to this day. Its bleakness is relatable – every country in the world has its own version of Neds. Trouble is, why are there Neds in the first place?
‘Neds’ is filmed drearily; you can sense the biting cold in contrast to the Neds’ blood-boiling aggression. Conor McCarron as John, the once-smart student-turned-young thug, is an interesting choice. In his performance you see the destruction of dreams, being picked apart brick by brick, until there’s no more. As John, he shows us that Glasgow is a town where dreamers never seem to win.