Fans of The Sopranos will be hard pressed to not come away from Ben Wheatley’s Down Terrace with their jaw dropped to the floor. Wheatley’s first feature film is a deep look into a family that is held together for all the wrong reasons. Bill (Robert Hill), the patriarch and head of a small collection of British Criminals has just been released from prison. Bill is a tough as nails, say it like he sees it bastard with a taste for playing folk music with his friends. Karl, Bill’s son with a temper (Robin Hill) has also just been released from after serving a short sentence. Both father and son believe that they have an informant in their midst are set about to remove the threat. Julia Deacon is Karl’s mother and in many ways is the most vicious of them all. All three of the family talk about what they have to do in order to find and remove the informant none of them have a problem taking the actions needed but the weight of their lives seems to be destroying their humanity.
The remainder of the cast consists of relatives and friends of the family who are associated with the family. There is only one non criminal and that is Karl’s girlfriend who shows up pregnant. Instead of Bill and Karl’s mom being happy they can’t help see but see her as an outsider and a threat, even going so far as to eventually saying that she needs to “disappear” for the good of the family. From this point on the film plays out with family members working for what they believe is the good of the family. There are several deaths as friend and family meet their end.
In addition to falling in love the script which is tight, laced with extreme violence and an incredible wicked sense of humor it is the acting that really draws you in as an outside observer. Robert and Robin Hill are real life father and son and they have a strong chemistry together. Julia Deacon is at times pitiful and then as short while later quite frightening and the supporting cast is equally strong.
As an outsider watching the family of Down Terrace we discover the true reasons behind the family’s disintegration. While it may appear that everyone is working for the “good” of the family it is really their own insecurities need to feel in control that drives everyone’s actions. I am sure that I am not the only reviewer to make the comparison to The Sopranos but I do not want to down play how gracefully Wheatley is able to delve into the true emotional forces driving the characters. It is the quiet moments that elevate the film into a powerful character study of people who need to be in control of their lives and also those around them.