The class divide in Britain is phenomenal and disheartening. You might have hoped that in the 21st century we’d be pass things like the super rich and the super poor. Stereotypes aside, where extreme levels of poverty and unemployment occur a kind of sub culture is born out of necessity. If you have not lived it, it is incredibly difficult to grasp and you often sound incredibly patronising when you try. It is no wonder frustration builds and things like the 2011 riots occur.
The Violators centres on two young girls from either end of this social spectrum. Shelly (played by new comer Lauren McQueen) lives in a council house with her two brothers. Resorting to stealing money from 2p machines and avoiding calls from social services, this is a family struggling financially and socially. On the other side of Chesire in a small, gated community we meet Rachael (Brogan Ellis), who offers second hand couture tops as charity, is apparently a shoe in for Cambridge and attends fencing lessons. Although this class divide between the two girls is overplayed at times (a prince and the pauper moment is evident when Shelly first walks through the gates and into Rachael’s home. She then promptly begins stealing anything of value) this in turn makes the mechanics of how their intertwined stories particularly masterful – the twists! Oh the twists.
The villain of the piece, Mikey (Stephen Lord) is detestable from the moment we meet him. From Shelly’s reaction to his supposed kindness, we quickly realise that he expects something unsavoury in return. The brief glimpses into Shelly’s abused childhood and her understanding that sexual favours can be used in exchange for goods and services adds to this underlying assumption and makes her fifteenth birthday seem all the more poignant. Her obvious disgust at being touched by this man mimics our own and any sexual advances are clearly portrayed as fundamentally wrong. The whole thing is sickening – as it should be – and very well played. Lord is convincingly slimy, and I mean that as a compliment.
What’s even more disturbing, and shows real talent on the young actress’ part, is you can see why she gives in to this lifestyle. Clearly in a desperate situation, craving independence and control, Shelly does whatever she can to protect herself and her family. She is simply striving for a better life, and in the end isn’t that what we’re all doing?
Throughout the course of the film we see Shelly as a reflection – in a window, in a mirror, in the surface of an arcade game. Beautifully shot, her intense smokey eyes (something I have been striving to achieve for years) look back at her as we do, and we are forced to reflect also. This and other points of symbolism are so seamless, it isn’t surprising that this movie was written by a novelist (aka Helen Walsh). But you may be surprised to hear that this is her first film! The Violators would be considered a success for an experienced director, let alone a new bod, so that in itself makes this film a particularly interesting watch.
New director, new actors, new point of view – The Violators is more than a complex story from an accomplished writer.