After a two-week hiatus, I’m back with a doozy of a film, one of a trilogy, in fact, based on David Peace's Red Riding Quartet, a series of novels revolving around group of murders in the Yorkshire area of England from 1974 to 1983. As you might know, I watch a lot of dark movies and, generally, nothing really phases me. I can say, without any reservation whatsoever, that these three Red Riding films (1974, 1980, and 1983) are some of the darkest and most depressing things I’ve ever watched. To say these movies are bleak is an understatement. They each get progressively worse so, when you finally watch Red Riding 1983, it will crush your soul. Today, I’m here to talk about the first movie, Red Riding: The Year of Our Lord 1974. I will discuss the other two movies in the next two columns.
Eddie Dunford (Andrew Garfield) has just returned from a stint as a reporter for a newspaper in London. He, apparently, couldn’t hack it down there, and has come back up north to work at The Yorkshire Post. He’s a little bit of a hot shot and is teased mercilessly by his co-workers. A local schoolgirl goes missing and Dunford begins to wonder if this disappearance is linked to two other young school girls who have gone missing in the area a few years earlier. He starts nosing around the area, trying to interview the mother of one of the missing girls. Paula Garland (the most amazing Rebecca Hall) doesn’t have much to say to Dunford at first. In fact, he gets beat up by some local cops who tell him never to talk to Garland again.
Of course, Dunford doesn’t listen and continues to visit Garland and the two become involved. Dunford is still trying to piece together the links between the missing girls. His friend and fellow reporter, Barry Gannon (Anthony Flanagan), tells Dunford to keep looking. Gannon gives him a shopping bag full of evidence he’s collected so far. Among the bag’s contents are surveillance photos of their editor at the newspaper, high ranking members of the local police force, and real estate magnet John Dawson (Sean Bean). When the body of the latest missing girl is found dead on a Dawson building site, Dunford becomes determined to connect the dots. Dunford has no idea what’s in store for him as he continues to pursue the case.
To quote a New Order album title, these stories are about “Power, Corruption, and Lies.” Dunford is eager to expose everything and goes to great lengths to try and solve his case. He puts himself in danger again and again in order to try and learn the truth. Something is rotten in Yorkshire and, although determined to get the answers, Dunford is no match for the trifecta of shit he goes against in terms of his paper, the local police, and John Dawson.
All the acting in this entire series is amazing. In this first Red Riding installment, Garfield and Hall are tremendous. A lot of folks don’t like Garfield for some reason (The Amazing Spider-Man movies, perhaps?) but I think he’s always good. Hall proves again that she is one of the best actors working today. Showing up briefly in this one, the ever fantastic David Morrissey will play a much larger part in the next two installments.
This part of the trilogy was filmed in 16mm, which lends to the atmosphere of the piece. Director Julian Jarrold does a wonderful job conveying just how fucking dark life can be, especially when dealing with corruption among officials. The England portrayed in the movie is bleak as hell and, as we’re shown, not everyone gets out alive. Be warned, this series deals with some heavy shit. If you don’t think you have the stomach for movies dealing with murdered children and police brutality, this one might not be for you. This first of the trilogy is dark enough, but they get escalate as the series goes on until the third installment, which will just fuck your shit right up the most. You’ll definitely need a shower and some cheering up when it’s all over. Next week, Red Riding 1980.
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