A Room for Romeo Brass

     Mining his own childhood for ideas, Shane Meadows has co-written and directed the
A Room for Romeo Brass. Based in part on his own relationship with his
collaborator Paul Fraser, the film follows the friendship between Gavin, a.k.a. 'Knocks',
and his buddy, the husky Romeo (newcomers Ben Marshall and Andrew Shim, respectively).
The pair are inseparable buddies but each shares a problematic upbringing. Romeo's father
(Frank Harper) has abandoned the family only to return full of anger and resentment, while
Gavin's dad (James Higgins) is uncommunicative. When Morell (Paddy Considine), an
eccentric, older stranger, comes to the boys' rescue during a fight, neither is prepared for
the results.

     Gavin, who has a limp, is teased and set upon by a couple of older schoolboys and
despite Romeo's attempt to break up the fight, it takes Morell to save them. The older man
offers to drive them home and becomes smitten with Ladine (Vicky McClure), Romeo's
older sister. Morell befriends the friends in an effort to learn more about Ladine. When
Gavin plays a practical joke on him (telling him she adores men who wear colorful athletic
gear), Morell doesn't exactly see the humor in it. In fact, behind Romeo's back, he threatens
to kill Gavin and his family. That's enough to make Gavin withdraw, particularly as he
is scheduled to undergo delicate surgery on his back. Morell takes advantage by further
befriending Romeo, offering him a place to crash and protecting him from his estranged
father. By exploiting his relationship with Romeo, he eventually lands a date with Ladine,
but his idea of a perfect evening goes awry when he makes an inappropriate sexual advance.

     Childhood is a fluky time; kids are often seeking ways to define themselves and
friendships can be a fluid thing. One minute, someone is your best friend, the next he isn't,
sometimes without warning. That's what is at the heart of
A Room for Romeo Brass.
Although it may seem unlikely that Morell would become the wedge between Romeo and
Gavin, Meadows and Fraser in their script delineate the reasons. With Romeo in search
of a male role model, it is entirely believable he would gravitate to this oddball.

     Meadows, who made a splash with his first film,
TwentyFourSeven, has only grown
in confidence and skill. Unlike many who stumble in their sophomore effort, this director
show a maturity and growth. As he proved in his debut, Meadows has a great eye for casting
unknowns and eliciting strong work from them. With Considine, Marshall and Shim he
has found three extremely talented individuals. Considine makes Morell a truly frightening
figure, one who can shift easily from humor to anger. Marshall and Shim share a nice
chemistry and make believable friends so that when their falling out occurs, it rings true.
There's also fine supporting work from McClure as Romeo's sister and Ladene Hall as his
mother. Bob Hoskins, who starred in
TwentyFourSeven, pops up in an all too brief cameo
as a tutor for the bedridden post-op Gavin.

     The technical credits are fine. Despite some wobbles in its script
A Room for Romeo Brass is a neat little movie that proves the adage of write what
you know. Meadows and Fraser are intimately aware of these characters and the care
with which they have captured them is palpable.

                       Rating:                       B
                       MPAA Rating:            R
                       Running time:             88 min.
© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.