First and foremost a family drama rather than a wallow in drug-scare conventions, Scottish director Gillies MacKinnon's tenth feature revolves around ten-year-old Paul (Harry Eden), whom we first see bringing his mother, Mel (Molly Parker), breakfast in bed before getting himself ready for school. But Mel's breakfast is cigarettes and heroin — Paul believes it's his mother's medicine — and the widowed Mel relies on drugs and her dealer, Lenny (David Wenham), to get though the day. She relies on Paul, who's taken on the responsibilities of someone much older, for everything else. She's so consumed by her addiction that she forgets his 10th birthday, but it's not until after Mel's best friend dies of an overdose that her son realizes just how dangerous his mother's "medicine" is. Determined not to lose her the way he lost his father who died suddenly (leaving his fragile wife with no means of supporting their children), Paul tries to get her to kick her habit. But his efforts bring the family to the attention of child-welfare authorities, who send Paul and his younger brother, Lee (Vinnie Hunter), to live with their late father's parents (Geraldine McEwan, Karl Johnson). Mel enters a long-term residential treatment program and Paul finds a sympathetic ear in neighbor Louise (Keira Knightley), an older teenager who, like Mel, is in thrall to Lenny. In fact, she's pregnant with his baby, though he doesn't know it; Louise doesn't consider herself a junkie because she only smokes heroin and hasn't been reduced to streetwalking to support her habit. Paul gradually realizes that as long as Lenny is in the picture, his mother will never stay clean. So he makes a reckless alliance with the police, agreeing to help them catch Lenny with enough drugs in his possession to put him away for years. Set in London's poverty stricken East End, in the shadow of the West Ham's football stadium at Upton Park, MacKinnon's film draws on his past as a youth worker and features a standout performance from first-time performer Harry Eden; the sequence in which Paul persuades Louise to help him try heroin so he'll know why Mel likes it so much is genuinely shocking without being sensationalistic. Among the adults, Parker and Wenham both bring exceptional depth and nuance to their characters (both are working outside their native accents; she's Canadian and he's Australian) and Knightley is equally fine as the self-deluded Louise.
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: NR
- Review: First and foremost a family drama rather than a wallow in drug-scare conventions, Scottish director Gillies MacKinnon's tenth feature revolves around ten-year-old Paul (Harry Eden), whom we first see bringing his mother, Mel (Molly Parker), breakfast in be… (more)