Once Upon a Time in the Midlands Reviews

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Super Reviewer
May 27, 2011
Shane Meadows is without doubt, one of the best British directors around at present. He knows his way around the working class lifestyle of Britain with a welcome and refreshing outlook that has, until his arrival, been commandeered by the likes of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh.
Waking up in a drunken haze Glaswegian crook Jimmy (Robert Carlyle) sees his ex, Shirley (Shirley Henderson), being proposed to on a daytime TV chat show. She spurns the proposal of Dek (Rhys Ifans) live on air, leading Jimmy to head back to his old town to claim back Shirley and his young daughter (Finn Atkins), that he left behind years ago.
After "TwentyFourSeven" and "A Room for Romeo Brass", this completes Shane Meadows' so called 'midlands trilogy' and with the actors involved, this has an abundance of quality. Despite this though, it's the weakest of the trilogy. That's not to say that there's nothing to enjoy, there is, and its plentiful. It just seems a bit too lighthearted in comparison with Meadows' other films. The excellent actors involved put in fine performances. Ifans and particularly Carlyle are two of the best in the business; Henderson is one of the most underated of actresses, deserving of far more attention and adding Kathy Burke and Ricky Tomlinson for some mild comic relief is always welcome. However, with this undoubted talent onscreen, it only makes it more frustrating that they aren't pushed to the extent that they're capable of. I suppose this is down to Meadows prefering a more humourous approach and if you're aware of this beforehand then you might not feel as disappointed with the lack of danger that he normally applies to certain characters. His use of a spaghetti western theme throughout a 'kitchen-sink' family drama is a wonderful touch though.
A good little comedy/drama that certainly entertains but it lacks any real emotional punch and should have made more of the fine ensemble of actors. Meadows' most impressive cast, yet strangely, one of his least impressive films.
Super Reviewer
October 25, 2008
Been waiting for a while to watch this and found it hard to get hold of. You can certainly see the 'Shane Meadows' stamp on this one, but in comparrison to his other films, it doesn't quite measure up. Meadows himself, is pretty aware of this, as he has spoken of this in interviews.

That being said, it's a light entertaining film with some great British actors and although that worked to a certain degree, Meadows talent lies in being able to pick fresh talent/untrained actors creating a gritty life-like situation. This was more of a 'roughed up rom-com'

I did like the use of the talk show though, which strangely hasn't been used in any films that I am aware of.
keith222
Super Reviewer
May 19, 2009
A different film from Shane Meadows. A nice little story that definitely strays from his usual dark story lines. Overall all though I'm always looking foward to a Shane Meadows film
October 25, 2008
I think Shane Meadows is an exceptionally talented director: this is not one of his better efforts. Nonetheless, there are some great moments and some standout performances, but it all seems to be much ado about nothing. Starts off strong and runs out of steam pretty quickly. Plus, it's hard to like these characters at any given point in the story.
October 25, 2008
Not one of Shane Meadows best but also not his worst. This movie was just okay. It was completely different from his other movies I've seen.
May 22, 2015
As talented as this cast is, Shane Meadows' film comes to its resolutions far too easily and neatly to be believed. It is really too bad because this had the makings of a good movie.
February 5, 2015
(38%)
A comedy drama that isn't funny or dramatic enough to surpass even moderate expectations. The director Shane Meadows appears to relish depicting the working class, but here his characters largely come across like one dimensional Viz cartoon strips, only not as comically pleasing, yet at the same time just as stereotypical. The cast is made up of a strong British cast from all corners of the country, but the slightly soap opera style writing is never quite good enough meaning no one ever gets the chance to shine. There are some amusing parts toward the first half, but the maudlin and trite closing sequence is enough to make me never want to watch this ever again.
January 17, 2015
Fun, subtle comedy with the added bonus of Carlyle in leather and long hair playing the bad boy you hate to love.
½ November 14, 2012
Despite a great performance from Rhys Ifans and a decent cast on the whole, dosnt quite get out of second gear as a drama and seems a bit seen-before and safe, certainly compared to Shane Meadows other efforts. As a screenplay it feels undercooked and the Western-traces feel vague. Robert Caryle and Shirley Henderson feel subdued in performance and character, and the presence of Ricky Tomlinson and Kathy Burke as well known British faces takes the subtety away. Watchable but not essential.
½ September 14, 2010
It pains me to write a negative review for a shane meadows film, it really does. Sadly, this film is just a wasted opportunity. It has lots of really talented actors, but most of them fail to deliver. The best actress is Finn Atkins, the young daughter who lights up the screen whenever shes on. The main actors, rhys ifans and robert carlyle, are fairly disappointing. Carlyle is especially bad, as he has put in some great performances in the past (BEGBIE!!!) but he fails to do much. Thats the problem with this film. It doesn't really have any heroes. Dek is too wimpy and wet to be a hero, at least until the end. Carlyle is ridiculously unlikeable, while the main woman is rather selfish. All in all, the film does have some funny moments, a great cast and the odd nice moment, but its stuck somewhere between a bad film and a good film, so it averages to 50.
½ September 8, 2010
A much stronger film than it's usually given credit for - warm, funny and emotionally engaging, Once Upon a Time in the Midlands weaves an unlikely tale of an old fashioned battle for the heart of a fair maid of Nottingham. Iffans and Carlyle are presented as polar opposites - both flawed, both pathetic that are presented as good and bad through the eyes of daughter Marlene. Like Sommerstown and This is England, Meadows unsentimentally presents the key character as the child - rather than the gritty poorism if Leigh, Meadows relies on story rather than grit for it's own sake. Great cameos, soundtrack, Sierra and set pieces. Underrated.
February 11, 2006
Best in Show: Kathy Burke (come back to acting - it needs you!)
One for the future: Kathy Burke
Stand-out scene: Car vs. baseball bat
Brainer or no-brainer: Brainer
Stands up to one viewing or repeated?: Repeated
DVD commentary any good?: n/a

DVD
As both a fan of the work of Shane Meadows and a Midlander (but West not East) this appealed, even if the director himself has denounced this film as below his best. It's also sad to note that it was her experience of filming this movie that caused Kathy Burke to hang up her acting spurs in favour of a behind the camera role - a great loss to British acting, but I suppose a great gain for British directing. Everything seemed to be in place for a terrific movie; Meadows behind the camera; a cast including Burke, Robert Carlyle, Rhys Ifans, Shirley Henderson and Ricky Tomlinson and a script penned by Meadows himself in conjunction with his long-time collaborator Paul Fraser. While this is by no means a complete wash-out it has to be said that when all is said and done it doesn't quite hit the mark. The story itself, I feel, is not as resonant as Meadows' other works (those i've seen, that is) and when it comes down to it has a pretty run-of-the-mill love triangle at its heart. The bigger budget and fairly high profile cast seem not to suit Meadows' style, and with only Henderson attempting the Nottingham accent this doesn't make the best use of its setting. Carlyle is jailbird Scot Jimmy who awakes one day to find his former girlfriend (and mother of his daughter) on Vanessa's talkshow, turning down an proposal of marriage from her new paramour (Rhys Ifans). After an incident with two clowns (Vic and Bob) he travels south with a holdall full of money in pursuit of his lost love (Shirley Henderson). With a shell-suited Kathy Burke and country and western music loving Ricky Tomlinson as near neighbours, the on paper quality of the movie is assured. A missed opportunity.
½ April 22, 2005
VERY WELL ACTED, ESPECIALLY BY ROBERT CARLYLE AND SHIRLEY HENDERSON. (I LOVE HER VOICE). RHTS IFANS IS ALSO GREAT. GOOD STORY, SOLID DIRECTION. SLOW FIRST HALF BUT GREAT SECOND HALF. POWERFUL AT TIMES, MOVING. KATHY BURKE IS EXCEPTIONAL IN A SUPPORTING ROLE.
½ April 16, 2004
Once Upon a Time in the Midlands is a fun, cute English comedy about a small-town loser that fights to keep his girlfriend from her bad-boy former boyfriend. The film is light and amusing. It may be tough sometimes to follow the dialog due to the heavy English accents, but after a while you'll get used to it. Fun entertainment.
February 22, 2004
[font=Trebuchet MS][size=3][b]Once Upon a Time in the Midlands[/b]: This film has a lot of plot problems, plus more than its share of uncomfortable scenes. I really liked how they paid homage to Leone with the music, the title, and some of the situations. I also really liked Robert Carlisle's character, but he could have used a little more development. [/size][/font]
[font=Trebuchet MS][size=3][/size][/font]

[font=Trebuchet MS][size=3][b]In the Cut: [/b]I used to think of Jane Campion as a good director. I really have to wonder what the hell she was thinking making this piece of trash. I mean, it's a mess everywhere. I don't know what she was trying to do. Was it supposed to be artistic at times, or just flat out stupid? The story flowed like a car with a blown out tire.[/size][/font]
February 21, 2004
This simple film is profoundly deep. It represents the hope of England, which was at one time cowardly, now transformed into heroism through events that cannot be avoided.
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