by Katie Hogan
The saying ‘there are two sides to every story’ doesn’t necessarily mean two people’s point of view. In the case of Mercedes Grower’s Brakes, it features nine couples at the end and then at the start of their relationships.
Beginning with the end, Brakes sets a sometimes somber and bitter tone as we skip from one couple to the next going through a breakup. The couples vary in how long they’ve been together, or at least the impression that the relationship has been short lived or has been going on for too long. Each with a new setting, a new heartbreak, switching from slightly comical (a strange reunion after a one-night stand) to depressing (a middle-aged couple who have become distant and bitter), it all ends the same way. The second half is a mix of brief encounters and somewhat romantic ‘meet cutes’ where the future broken-up couples first meet each other – more uplifting with a sense of hope, even though we all know the outcomes of each relationship. Some couples are easily forgettable due to unlikely pairings, while others (the fashion girl and the builder) are actually quite romantic.
Featuring a cast of familiar faces of British comedy (Julia Davis, Julian Barratt, Noel Fielding) and the more dramatic (Peter Wight, Kerry Fox, Paul McGann), this micro-budget film is written, directed and produced by Mercedes Grower – who also stars – who impresses with her ability to create relatable and realistic scenarios within each couples’ story. The obvious budgetary choices are noticeable but can also be admired as familiar public spaces are made use of as well the one-room locations, forcing couples to confront each other during the breakups.
Unfortunately, the film doesn’t hold up as a comedy due to the emotional heartaches suffered by the characters, but it does serve as an intriguing option as an alternative to the barrage of rom-coms released each year. It is the perfect anti-Valentine’s Day film but could be equally enjoyed or reviled any other day of the year.
Dir: Mercedes Grower
Scr: Mercedes Grower
Prd: Mercedes Grower
Cast: Noel Fielding, Julian Barratt, Paul McGann, Julia Davis, Kerry Fox, Peter Wight, Steve Oram, Kate Hardie, Roland Gift, Kelly Campbell, Mercedes Grower
DoP: Gabi Norland, Denzil Armour-Brown
Music: Quickspace, Adrian Crawley, Maija Sofia, Alias, The Human League, Sybil
Running time: 1h 28 minutes
Brakes is available on DVD in the UK on 12th February