I believe David Mackenzie couldn’t choose better actor than Jack O’Connell in the role of 19 violent Eric Love, (which is kind of ironic). Indeed, after watching his performance in the TV show Skins and his capacities to burst into uncontrolled anger, Eric Love, who just got into prison couldn’t be more accurately played than by O’Connell.
The film opens with him entering the prison, and going through the usual process, shot with beautiful angles by Mackenzie.
If the movie starts with a very slow rhythm, it soon took a whole different turn, and overflowing with testosterone, we assist to situation after situation so intense and fast than you arrive at the end where after a climax, everything settles down with a tender landing; you just finished your turn of roller coaster.
The movie tackles the issue of the father figure, in the setting of a prison, which is even more interesting. We soon learn that Eric got into prison to be with his father Neville (Ben Madelsohn), who went for a long time when his son was still a little boy. With no mum, Eric had a tough childhood. Therefore, we understand his predisposition to violence and it isn’t very surprising.
Well, the captivating element of Starred Up, is the different father figures Eric is confronted to. If his father tries to catch up with him, and tries to do his pater job, the 19 years old, caught the eye of Oliver Baumer (Rupert Friend), the only person of the whole prison who still believe there is hope for violent inmates, and runs a small therapy group, with until now, only black convicts.
To understand Oliver’s dedication; he isn’t payed and decided to help them because he “needs to”. Eric finds not only another protective paternal image, but also “friends” and the movie shows that interracial friendships are possible.
The movie flies over the rapid evolution of the different relationships and the characters that bound and unbound over and over. The director along with screenwriter Jonathan Asser focus and put as the core of the story, the father-son relationship. They highlighted how Eric wants to prove an independence he developed through all those years fatherless, and yet O’Connell emanates a great sensitiveness, of a deep disappointment towards his character’s dad; what Neville did as a freeman, and what he is, now locked up. He merged with his character, and found perfectly how to embody it. It is one of the best performance I’ve seen this past two years.
Starred up, shows the circle of life, the circle that starts with and abandon and finishes with sacrifice. Two shots of rotating doors are taken in the movie supporting the idea. Meaning, what goes around comes around but there is always a way to fix things up, alway a pattern allowing you to prove yourself and always a way to get out of shit.