Brassed Off Reviews
Gloria (Tara Fitzgerald) returns to her home town and becomes the band's only female member and star flugel horn player, whilst having to hide the fact that she is writing a viability study to decide the fate of the mine. All the while, young band member Andy (Ewan McGregor) is hoping that she's come back to sort out the "unfinished business" of a childhood fumble behind the bus station.
To add to Danny's woes, his son Phil (Stephen Tompkinson) has his own troubles. Broke, with a broken trombone, debt collectors on the doorstep and wife seeking to leave him... these are troubles that even his alter ego, Mr Chuckles the clown, can't fix.
In the face of the impending pit closure and Danny's failing health, can the band make one final tilt at the National Championship at the Royal Albert Hall?
Brassed Off is one my favourites for several reasons, including one very personal reason. I'll get the personal reason out of the way first, Brassed Off was my late Grand-dad's favourite film and it never failed to get both a tear and a smile out of him every time he watched it.
Now to the other reasons, the writing of Brassed Off is clever and works on different levels. The plight of the town's pit is echoed alongside Danny's personal plight - whilst the town is threatened to have the guts ripped out of it by the pit closure, Danny's own life is threatened to have the guts ripped out of it - both physically through the illness of breathing in coal dust and emotionally through the impending break up of the band.
In addition to this, you see the conflicts facing the characters at different levels. Against the backdrop of the miners threatening to tear each other apart over the redundancy package, this is shown at a more intimate level as the news of Gloria's true reasons for returning to Grimley threaten to tear apart the fledgling romance between her and Andy.
The music is of an extremely high quality with a score by Trevor Jones that keys into the emotion of the film whilst acknowledging the roots of the film. In addition to this are songs including Floral Dance, Jerusalem, William Tell Overture and Danny Boy are performed by The Grimethorpe Colliery Band.
To match the script and the music are blistering performances by an ensemble group of actors at the top of their game and it feels a shame to single out performances.
Ewan McGregor and Tara Fitzgerald are believable as the reunited lovers, Andy and Gloria, on the verge of rekindling their relationship all the while under the threat of being torn apart by the events going on and the opinions of Andy's friends.
Stephen Tompkinson portrayal of Phil is both tragic and poignant throughout. What starts as a man who is trying to make ends meet following past events becomes a man who loses his wife, children and most tellingly, hope. Particularly powerful is the scene where he describes the unfairness of his situation in the guise of Mr Chuckles at a children's harvest festival prior to making a suicide attempt.
Last, and by certainly no means least, is the performance of the late, great Pete Postlethwaite as Danny. I could try to put many adjectives to his performance - magnetic, powerful and driven being amongst them. Suffice it to say, Postlethwaite's performance is the driving force behind the emotion for the film - especially towards the film's conclusion.
If you haven't seen this film, please give it a go. Whilst the character of Danny says that it's "music that matters", the music is a contributing factor but great stories about people with brilliant actors are why we go to the cinema.
Note of error found in film: in one scene Jim is carrying a tuba with the bell on his left, but when he is playing it's a tuba with the bell on his right (valves also have different configurations). My wife said that as a tuba player I would be the only one to notice this.
Oh, and remember it's not a trumpet, it's a bloody euphonium!
So many of these films in the 90s. However its charming, well-acted and with added poignancy since Postlethwaite subsequently died.