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Underrated Movies: “Guidance” (2014) – Comedy

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Paola_Bassanese_itcher_contributorGuidance demonstrates that you can make an interesting “fly-on-the-wall” type drama without any stuffiness or pretentiousness, and with the addition of comedy the end result is an indie film that will likely gain cult status in years to come.
~ Paola Bassanese

‘Guidance’ (2014)

Image Source: IMDB

Directed by: Pat Mills
Written by: Pat Mills
Starring: Pat Mills, Zahra Bentham, Kevin Hanchard
Synopsis: David Gold, former child actor, is a man who has lost his sense of identity and – between a health scare, self-denial about his sexuality and his alcohol habit, plus an impending eviction notice – is on the verge of losing his grip on reality too. When he fakes his CV to get a job at Grusin High as a guidance counsellor, hilarity ensues.
How I Discovered ‘Guidance’

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.

Why Do Artists Struggle?

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.


Why Watch ‘Guidance’?

I’ll give you two good reasons to watch ‘Guidance’.

It’s a Life-Affirming Story

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.

There’s a Lot of Improvisation

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.

What’s Good about ‘Guidance’

‘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.

What Could Have Been Improved On

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.

Why You Should Watch It

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!


Do You Want to Watch Guidance?

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.

I am Paola Bassanese, and I love twitter – I think in slogans! I am a contributing author at itcher mag covering mainly quirky movies that I like and that I hope you′ll like too. [n-e-x-t] I have written a few books including The Foraging Home Cook, and also write about health and lifestyle for the Huffington Post. I consider myself to be a Londoner even though I was born in Italy. I love 80s music and foreign language films, but I also enjoy going to the opera and ballet.
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