Mile End tells the story of Paul Kerr (Andrew Humes), a man who loses his job and looks to better himself by taking up running and getting into shape. Through this, he meets John (Mark Arnold), a friendly American man who takes a quick liking to Paul and they become fast friends. They both agree that life is unfair, and John has many words of wisdom with his new friend. However, things soon turn sinister, and Paul’s life takes an unexpected turn.
Mile End is very much a mixed bag, but let’s start with the positives; it’s a very competently made film. Graham Higgins definitely has a great eye for shots and his visual style is very distinct. He does a lot of visual story telling in Mile End which is (mostly) effective, and it’s pretty well edited too. The latter half of the film includes some decent performances, and it’s more intimate moments are definitely very charming and easy to watch, and it’s ending has a certain poignancy to it. Of course, the key part of that is that it’s all in the latter half. The first half is very flawed. It’s largely down to the performances and writing, both of which are very ineffective for the beginning of the film. Whilst Humes manages well on his own, his chemistry with the other cast members is piss poor. It’s like one actor says something to another, and those words just hit the other actor in the face and fall to the ground, before they respond and the exact same things happen. They don’t bounce off each other, they don’t feel like friends or lovers or anything they’re supposed to be, and it makes the film really awkward to watch. There’s one small moment in particular where Paul and his friends discuss the fact that John Wayne’s real name was Marion, and Good Lord, it is painful.
It doesn’t help that the script is bad. Again, as the film progresses, it gets better and certain things become clearer, but for the first half, it’s kind of annoying. It’s not at all enticing and just a tad contrived, and the character of John is really bothersome in general. He has this obsession with Paul, but it’s never really clear why. Things make a bit more sense towards the end but for a while it’s just very hard to take it seriously. In addition to that, it feels like the film thinks it’s smarter than it actually is; John spouts a lot of comments about life, about who lives well and what happens to people who are under control etc. and it’s all supposed to sound wise and clever, but when you think about it, all of his points boil down to “Be a bad person cause it’s more fun”.
It would be so much easier to get along with this if this advice was supposed to be bad, like there was a point to it, but like 70% of the time, Paul agrees with him. It just feels like the film thinks it has a lot to say, but in actuality, it’s not saying anything. And finally, whilst the visual style and shots are very well done, they are often over used. There are so many shots of Paul just kind of looking out into the distance while music plays (Really good music though), and similar stuff to that, and it happens again and again and again but doesn’t really add anything to the film. In fact, there are quite a few moments scattered throughout that just feel really random and out of place, and totally ineffective.
But again, it is by no means a terrible film. It gets a lot better as it moves into it’s second half, more emotions are felt and things start to make a little more sense, and as a result, the performances improve too. Mile End doesn’t quite hit the notes it needs to, but it’s definitely a decent effort from writer/director Graham Higgins.
MILE END HITS EAST END FILM FESTIVAL ON THE 28th JUNE
SEE THE FULL PROGRAM