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I came across Pat Mills’ ‘Guidance’ through the Bright Young Things Film Club (listen to the podcast interview here).
Fatima and Bridget from the film club did a great job in spotting this fantastic film. I read the synopsis and I was intrigued with this story of a former child actor whose life is falling apart at the seams. You can see some stills from ‘Guidance’ on Pat Mills’ website.
It seems almost inevitable that artists struggle in today’s society. My guess is that most artists choose not to attend business school (and a job for life) but opt for an alternative career that allows them to express their creativity (and share their talents with the world). This means that while the majority of the population is talking about mortgage repayments and creates spreadsheets for anything that moves, artists live day-by-day trying to canvas support for their projects, without the safety blanket of a stable income.
If you have ever watched Robert De Niro’s speech at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, you will know that his key message was that, if you are an accountant, nurse, or a lawyer you don’t have to worry because you have a job for life. If you are a film maker, photographer, dancer, musician, writer or actor, you are an artist and therefore… you’re f*cked.
“You have to keep working” says De Niro, adding that choosing to be an artist is choosing a lifetime of rejections.
I’ll give you two good reasons to watch ‘Guidance’.
I enjoy a good life-affirming movie. I like to see things from a different perspective than my own and learn about other people and how they live their lives. Although director Pat Mills said in interviews that the film is only vaguely inspired by his own life (he used to be a child actor in Nickelodeon’s ‘You Can’t Do That on Television‘), it is fascinating to get an insider’s view of someone who has been there, done that, got the TV series – only to be cast aside once the audience has moved on. No more call backs, the landlady hassling daily for overdue rent (you can’t even have a private moment in the toilet, she has spare keys!), people not recognising you in the street.
And yet, the protagonist strikes some unlikely friendships with young people who feel alienated from modern society and want to live life according to their own rules. He manages to gain their trust and, in his very peculiar way, inspire them.
The main charm of this film is that its style is very natural: as a viewer you are like a fly on the wall, following people around as they act out various levels of misdemeanor.
In the Q&A after the Bright Young Things film screening, Pat Mills said that the whole filming took place in only two weeks and that there was a lot of improvisation involved. The flipside to that was that the editing took more than 6 months until completion.
‘Guidance’ is first and foremost a comedy: I would say it’s about 80% comedy and 20% drama. The challenge was to make the audience laugh but not allow to distract from the key social themes of social exclusion, identity and sexuality.
You do get to laugh uncontrollably at some scenes, and it’s so refreshing to laugh because without the comedy elements this film would be just another gritty urban drama – yes, sure, very worthy, but not as memorable.
I think the final 10 minutes seemed almost rushed, a final push to tie all the plot lines together – I just wanted to see a bit more of how the characters would evolve over time.
As a snapshot of today’s society ‘Guidance’ works very well, but as a fictional drama it probably needed more fleshing out (but I’m not complaining!). Mind you, as I mentioned the emphasis here is on the comedy element, so I can’t really be too picky.
You like a good comedy with a message. Why isn’t this movie on general release? Come on big distribution companies, do your homework: people want more than run-of-the-mill blockbusters, there’s a whole market hungry for indie films that hasn’t been catered for!
What are your thoughts now? Do you think you may want to watch Guidance?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether you are planning to see it, or maybe you have watched it and want to share your opinion.