By Don Simpson | July 22, 2013
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Writers: Dexter Fletcher, Danny King
Starring: Charlie Creed-Miles, Will Poulter, Sammy Williams, Iwan Rheon, Charlotte Spencer, Marc Warren, Peter McCabe, Morgan Watkins, Rad Kaim, Aaron Ishmael, Liz White, Hardeep Singh Kohli, Neil Maskell, Leo Gregory, Mark Monero, Peter-Hugo Daly, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Jaime Winstone, Andy Serkis, Sean Pertwee, Dickon Tolson
“Wild” Bill (Charlie Creed-Miles) is released on parole after spending eight long years in prison. He returns to his family’s low-income flat to discover his two sons, Jimmy (Sammy Williams) and Dean (Will Poulter), abandoned by their mother. Only 15-years old, Dean (Will Poulter) dropped out of school in favor of working a full-time construction job in order to support his 11-year old brother.
The dilapidated flat in which they reside exists in stark contrast to the glistening new structures of Olympic Park (which Dean is helping to construct). That perfect world of the future is so close, yet so far away from their lives; but Dean fights hard to make sure Jimmy stays in school, in the hopes of establishing the building blocks for a brighter future for that kid.
No one has noticed that the two minors are living alone — well, at least not until Bill accidentally attracts the attention of social services. This leaves Bill with the choice of shaping up into fatherly material or disappearing again and probably ruining his sons’ lives once and for all. Dexter Fletcher’s Wild Bill is a film about being faced with life-altering choices such as this one. It is a series of bad choices that landed Bill in the slammer eight years ago. If he learned one thing from that experience, it is that he never wants to be incarcerated again. While Dean has made a series of responsible choices as of late, Jimmy is not so lucky. Having fallen in with some bad eggs, Jimmy finds himself under contract to deliver crack for Bill’s previous employer.
Hiding beneath the guise of a British crime movie (ala Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn), Wild Bill is much more in line with the British cinematic tradition of kitchen sink social realism. Practically void of violence or action, Fletcher’s film is closely in tuned with the working class struggle of its characters. This is an unglamorous world in which, seemingly overnight, young boys can be turned into drug dealers and young girls can be turned into single mothers. Economic hardship may seem like an breakable cycle, but Wild Bill suggests that there is still an opportunity for redemption. In order to save his family, Bill must be able to prove that he can shed the stigma of being a “wild” hoodlum; but with drugs and thuggery so engrained in the surrounding culture, it is a constant battle to avoid being dragged back into that violent lifestyle. Most importantly, Bill must prove to his sons that he is a loving and protecting parent.
Wild Bill‘s profound and thoughtful narrative is always respectful of its characters, never mocking or patronizing them. As long as Bill and his sons make all of the correct decisions from here on out, Fletcher gives them a glimmer of hope that they might eventually break free of their preordained caste, or at least be able to forge a happy life within their social stratification.
Charlie Creed-Miles’ subdued — “mild Bill, more like” — performance, along with Fletcher’s assured minimalist direction and a well-conceived story arc, masterfully controls the tone of the film. Admittedly, until I watched Wild Bill I did not believe it to be possible to realistically convey a story about a violent thug who evolves into a good dad without the film growing overly dramatic or sappy. I guess you could say that Wild Bill has changed my outlook on many things.