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Are YOUR parents a burden?  

Year: 1997 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 18 Cert – Not suitable for under 18s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

Truly a paradigm of its genre, Orphans follows the lives of the Flynn siblings on the night after their mother’s funeral, and forms a study of the emotional upheavals and dangerously extreme reactions brought about by the death of a loved one.

The ties of blood, the trauma of parting and the violence of raging loss are all central to Orphans, the directorial debut of Peter Mullan (star of Ken Loach’s “My Name is Joe”). His unflinching, unsentimental take on the subject matter makes Orphans a lacerating, darkly humorous and brutally honest film.

Shortly after the funeral, the four adult Flynn children retire to their local Glasgow pub. When pious, church-going brother Thomas (Lewis) mourns his mother’s death in tear-filled, albeit rather embarrassing, song, the family’s grief is displayed to the public as a brawl starts involving a local thug. Michael (Henshall) rises to defend his honour but is stabbed in the ensuing brawl. As younger brother John (McCole) sets out to avenge Michael’s stabbing, their wheelchair-bound sister Sheila is left under Thomas’ charge. Thomas, however, becomes rather too involved with mourning, and Sheila is left to fend for herself.

Mullan guides this family of benighted strays through a long, wild dark night. Each of the four Flynns is richly characterised, while the backdrop - Glasgow’s netherworld laid bare - lends a suitably cruel setting for their cathartic experiences. Thomas takes refuge in a church and John enlists the services of an unhinged cousin to find a gun and seek out Michael’s attackers. Meanwhile, Michael entertains vainglorious ideas of turning his misfortune into ill-gotten lucre and Sheila finds the tender mercies of family of Good Samaritans. The emotional and visual onslaught comes hard and fast, the laughs in prickly, uneasy and unsettling doses. Brilliantly directed, Orphans is a film with an unforced, gently lyrical touch that never loses sight of its anger or raw energy. British black comedy drama at its heart-pounding, soul scorching best.

Kilgore Trout (with thanks to Gavin Martin)

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Screenings of this film:

1999/2000 Autumn Term (35mm)