In 2006, Paul Andrew Williams’ London to Brighton won him the New Director’s Award at the Edinburgh Film Festival. Now four years later, he’s back with Cherry Tree Lane, which appropriately enough had its world premiere at this year’s festival.
The premise is fairly simple. A middle-aged, middle-class couple are taken captive in their own home by three teenage boys. The film takes you through the hour and a half ordeal in real time, as we discover why they were targeted and how both the couple and their capturers respond to the events that unfold.
As one might expect, there are thrills and tension to be had here, all of which are handled expertly, but it’s not like we haven’t seen these elements in plenty of other films before.
Where the film differentiates itself from the norm, is in its depiction of the teenagers at its centre, and the huge gap between their world and the one of middle-class couple who’s home they invade.
The film perfectly captures and examines the morality of both sets of characters. One perfect example of this is when one of the teenagers gets the husband a drink and apologises for kicking the man so hard. In this scene it’s made clear that the teenager sees himself as a relatively ‘good guy’, at least in comparison to those around him, and feels little guilt for the extreme situation he’s put this man through.
In light of all the negative headlines around the ‘feral’ youth of today, it’s interesting to see a movie which actually examines the people behind these types of stories. When watching it, you feel a surprising amount of sympathy towards the teenagers at times, without ever feeling the need to condone the incredibly short-sighted way they’ve went around getting what they want.
Being a teacher, I could also identify heavily with both the language and attitudes of the teens in the movie. I was impressed with the way Williams captured the relationships the young people have with one another, and the believable way they were able to justify what they were doing.
Cherry Tree Lane is not a movie for everyone. Although it never shows you that many extreme acts of violence, it’s difficult to escape the impact of the brutality being depicted. This makes it quite an unsettling, uncomfortable film to watch. However, I still think it has something important to say about the gap between working class teens and the middle classes. And it may be a film that we look back upon as really capturing the mood of a country at a time when the generation gap seems to be growing ever wider.