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South West 9
cast: Mick Letheren

director: Richard Parry

99 minutes (18) 2001
widescreen aspect ratio 16:9
Metrodome
DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 10/10
reviewed by Pete Short
There are of course parts of the UK that will remain, mercifully, embedded in the 1950s forever. These are the locations where you almost expect to get the service of an assistant at the petrol pumps, a salute from the AA patrolman, corner shops which will wrap your cheese in grease-proof paper, and give you a paper carrier bag with string handles. This in mind, my encounter with South West 9 was rather like a piece of straw reading a minor existentialist classic in a submarine. It made me remember what it was like to be in my twenties, and whispered in my ear 'there's always time to grow old - later!'
   I shouldn't have liked this film; I view most British productions with suspicion since the hype and critical acclaim surounding Four Weddings And A Funeral and The Full Monty. Since Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels there has been more 'new century - new wave' vibrations, and now we have to weed out the Guy Ritchie inspired projects, but here in a dark corner of south London there appears an ex-war zone cameraman who feels he has something to say and is not afraid of being a potential target for grudging old-wave bleeders like me.
   Richard Parry started making his first film when he was 18-years-old, but it was uncompleted because he felt he didn't have "enough experience of life." South West 9 has that experience, but where you would expect him to tread heavily, soaking the celluloid with blood and bile, he adds a strange tenderness too. The main character (for me) is Mitch, played beautifully by Mick Letheren. I wasn't too sure when he first appeared, in a scene featuring two London wide-boys choc-full of street cred, and tight-timed banter, but he's the unfortunate character who sets his hand in a pool of pure LSD and is engaged to show his journey through a day-long trip. Usually in a situation like this, the director shows the world through the poor sod's perception, but Parry chooses, freshly I thought, to show Mitch through everyone else's eyes. You know that moment when the dope kicks in (I presume) - when you stop and think, 'what the bloody hell was that?' Well, that was done very authentically. The change from gentle humour to a dark, scary look across the eyes is real, and the light, drifting, dream of his meeting with a negro Mr Big, ("You're so black," he says convincingly), is touching. I watched this movie three times in two days, and I'll make that four by the end of this week, just to see if I can work out what it's really all about.
   Characters with names like Dowser and Phaser, a ranting sister who C-words every phrase somehow tastefully, a white Rasta-bunny slumming it to save the world, a black yuppie girl, a stockbroker turned disco-scammer and a hammering BAFTA-winning soundtrack to beat any other collection I've heard this year. I can't wait to see what Parry comes up with next. With my ideas about Brit films slightly upturned, I recommend this to anyone who likes a laugh, a lesson and a lifestyle wake-up call!
   DVD extras: behind-the-scenes footage, making-of documentary short, trailer, Dolby digital 5.1 sound, plus previously unseen footage from Human Traffic.
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