(director/writer: Andrea Arnold; cinematographer: Robbie Ryan; editor: Joe Bini; music: Burial; cast: Barry Keoghan (Bug), Franz Rogowski (Bird), James Nelson-Joyce (Skate), Sarah Beth Harber (Dionne’s Mum), Nykiya Adams (Bailey), Joanne Matthews (Des), Jason Buda (Hunter), Jasmine Jobson (Peyton), Franki Box (Kayleigh), James Nelson Joyce (Skate), Rhys Yates (Beck); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Lee Groombridge, Juliette Howell, Tessa Ross; Mubi/Access Entertainment/BBC Films; 2024-UK/USA/France/Germany)

 “Not believable but uplifting.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Veteran Brit director Andrea Arnold (“American Honey”/”Fish Tank”) writes and helms this gritty kitchen-sink drama of a dysfunctional family in Kent (the place where the director was raised). It’s set over a few summer days.

The visuals captured on the hand-held camera are beautiful.

Bailey (Nykiya Adams, non-professional actor) is a 12-year-old girl who lives in a dinghy suburban seacoast flat in Gravesend, Kent, with her gang member, slightly older half-brother Hunter (Jason Buda) and, her troubled, idler, child-like, heavily tattooed, single father, Bug (Barry Keoghan). Bug tells everyone he will marry his girlfriend Kayleigh (Franki Box) of three months on Saturday, and they will live off the profits made from selling the hallucinogenic waste-products from the toads of the Colorado River he collects.

Bailey calms her frayed nerves by shooting videos of mainly seagulls on her cell phone. She also takes videos of the wacky sweet man dancing around her in a nearby field in his kilt, who is called Bird (
Franz Rogowski, German actor). The two become friends, as he helps her with her problems and she helps him find his biological father.

Meanwhile Bailey’s mum (
Jasmine Jobson) and younger siblings are living with an abusive druggie (James Nelson Joyce), in another part of town.

The minor drama turns from a despondent coming-of-age drama to a gritty feel-good
fantasy magical realism drama, that’s not believable but is uplifting.

It played at the Cannes Film Festival.

 REVIEWED ON 5/31/2024  GRADE: B