The Unloved (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner18/02/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 106 mins

Impressively shot with a minimalist but effective script, this is an assured directorial debut from Samantha Morton with a heartbreaking central performance from young Molly Windsor.

What's it all about?
Directed by Samantha Morton, The Unloved is a semi-autobiographical drama based on Morton's own childhood. Newcomer Molly Windsor stars as 11-year-old Lucy, who is beaten by her father (Robert Carlyle) in the opening scene and is subsequently placed in a care home by her social worker (Kerry Stacey).

In the care home, Molly is taken under the wing of her bolshy 16-year-old roommate Lauren (Lauren Socha from Misfits), who immediately takes her shoplifting and introduces her to the joys of make-up. However, when Lucy witnesses one of the care-workers (Craig Parkinson) sexually abusing Lauren, she runs away from the home and attempts to reconnect with both her father and her mother.

The Good
Morton's directorial style owes a clear debt to the work of Lynne Ramsay (who directed Morton in Morvern Callar), with a strong focus on nature, highly subjective camerawork and minimal dialogue throughout, at least as far as Lucy is concerned – she barely speaks unless spoken to. Morton also gets a superb performance from Molly Windsor, who manages to be utterly heartbreaking just by passively observing the chaos around her (which, in turn, highlights how easy it is for someone like Molly to slip through the cracks in the system).

There's also terrific support from Lauren Socha as Lauren, whose brash behaviour is all too obviously a cover for her own loneliness and desperation; her relationship with the care-worker is extremely upsetting, even if it seems a little far-fetched that Parkinson's character would get into bed with Lauren while Lucy was in the room.

The Great
In addition, Carlyle and Lynch make the most of their brief scenes as Lucy's parents – Lucy's obvious joy when she finds and hugs her father is utterly devastating, because it speaks volumes about the realities of abusive parent-child relationships. Similarly, Lucy's often repeated and frequently ignored line about whether or not she can live with her mother has a heartbreaking payoff in the powerful final scene.

Worth seeing?
With a strong message and a terrific central performance from its young lead, The Unloved is a powerfully emotional drama that marks Morton out as a directorial talent to watch. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 14/12/2017 19:07

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