Neds review by Melissa Orcine - Cinema Paradiso
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.