British film has always been able to step outside its comfort zone and outside the country itself. Finding stories that can resonate with everyone and in some small way, relate to the characters. Saying that, its a push to say this about the characters of Steel Country. Set in a small town in the middle of America, the depressing after effects of the Trump administration looms. Everyone knows everyone, even if it is just a wave from a child to a sanitation truck driver every bin collection day.
Andrew Scott plays Donnie, he is autistic and has young daughter, result of a one night stand. When a young boy who he used to see on his route as a sanitation truck driver goes missing and later found in the river, he becomes fixated on the fact that this wasn’t an accident. Casually but unsubtly asking people about the boy, his parents, his doctor and whether or not there was something more serious happening, he unconventionally tries to seek the truth through accidental shocking behaviour. His determination is seen as annoying at first until he himself is threatened, he knows he’s on to something.
A twist on a detective story where the main character has no connection to the victim in the story, he just sees injustice and believes this needs to be corrected. Most detectives are given a harsh back story or a drinking problem, one of Donnie’s characteristics is that he is autistic, although, this is never confirmed in the film, whether or not this is to show the lack of patience or ignorance from the fellow townspeople but Donnie is more aware than most of what’s happening. He might not know what ‘sleep together’ means, but he does seem to have a profound insight to how the little boy felt.
The filmmakers did mention that they had wanted to keep the time and place anonymous, taking out the posters about the election but then realising that this the signs would mirror the times, digitally inserted them back in during post. Showing how America lives, with many people living in poverty or in dead end towns like the one the film was shot in. Britain is somewhat know for its social realism films but having a British cast and crew focus on what its really like in America, has the vantage point of what an outsider sees, similar to Donnie who is an outsider in his community. People fear the unknown and automatically don’t trust it, however in film, we can usually turn this around and give the hero his moment, even if Donnie doesn’t get that.
Dir: Simon Fellows
Scr: Brendan Higgins
Prd: Gareth Unwin, Mark Williams, Tai Duncan, Leon Clarance
Cast: Andrew Scott, Denise Gough, Bronagh Waugh
DoP: Marcel Zyskind
Music: John Hardy Music
Run time: 89 minutes