An impressive melange of British talent crashing into one another in the form of an acidic family dramedy, Happy New Year, Colin Burstead is peppered throughout with Wheatley’s signature deadpan wit and bubbling conflict. Things get off to a good start with a hectic opening third which zips along on the strength of its onslaught of character introductions and initial awkward interactions. Once the family dynamic has been established and the film settles in to its running time, however, it starts to feel a bit shapeless and repetitive. When the final credits rolled I was stumped, being convinced we were moving into the film’s concluding movement exactly where it was cutting off. Strange.
Wheatley apparently intends for this to be the jumping off point for a TV series following the same group of characters, but I can’t say it left me with a desire to see the story continued in serial form as much as I wanted to see it concluded definitively. Wheatley is credited as sole writer here, and while I don’t doubt Amy Jump had some uncredited input, it does lack the control and satisfaction of the films of theirs in which she has a leading creative hand.
One of the things I love about Wheatley though is his productivity. I don’t expect, nor need, everything he makes to knock me out, I just want to see him make as many different, esoteric things as possible and this certainly qualifies. He surrounds himself with wonderful collaborators too, each relishing the opportunity to work with the kind of material they aren’t usually offered. The performances here are all excellent, namely Neil Maskell, Sam Riley, Hayley Squires and Charles Dance. My only other complaint would be that it doesn’t look particularly dynamic, with Wheatley and DOP Laurie Rose reverting back to the handheld run-and-gun stylings of Down Terrace rather than the increasingly composed and varied aesthetics of A Field In England, High Rise or Free Fire. Part of that is probably due to budget and a tight schedule though, but I still wish the visuals were a little more striking.
This is airing on the BBC in the UK on Christmas Eve so I’ll definitely be giving it another go.
Watched at Leeds International Film Festival with Q&A by Ben Wheatley, Andy Starke.