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BLACK NIGHTS 2019 First Feature Competition

Review: Looted

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- Rene Pannevis takes a look at the life of carjackers in an English coastal town in his debut feature about crime and morality

Review: Looted
Charley Palmer Rothwell in Looted

Director Rene Pannevis’ drama Looted [+see also:
interview: Rene Pannevis
film profile
]
has had its world premiere at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, where it screened in the First Feature Competition.

Set in an English coastal town, the film follows Rob (Charley Palmer Rothwell), a 21-year-old leading a double life. He spends his “working hours” stealing cars along with his best friend, Leo (Thomas Turgoose), and their gang: JP (Anders Hayward) and Leo’s girlfriend, Kasia (Roman Polanski’s progeny Morgane Polanski). At home, however, Rob needs to take care of his bedridden father, Oswald (Tom Fisher), who thinks his son is busy looking for a job. Despite trying to keep these two worlds separate, after a chance visit by Kasia and Leo, the wall between the worlds starts to crumble.

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The town is way past its heyday and the outlook for finding a job – and forging a better future – very limited. The empty feel of the place and the focus on the leading group of characters – their contact with outsiders being occasional and minimal – establishes a feeling of isolation that is enhanced by the cold, bluish look of the picture.

Although the life of crime is a prevalent theme throughout the movie, the main focus of Looted is on Rob’s strained relationships with the people around him. The assertive and aggressive Leo, who has been friends with Rob since childhood, has control over him, which is hard to shake. Rob’s complicated relationship with his dying father is taking its toll at home. The only positive force in his life is Kasia, but she’s with Leo, whose controlling nature is also affecting her... And even the thrills that the story brings owe more to the complicated relationships than to the criminal aspect of the narrative, which acts as a means to look at the subject matter of moral ambiguity, explored mainly through Rob and his dual nature. His passion for cars has turned into a criminal career, but one which helps him finance the care for his ailing father, whom he lovingly feeds, bathes and looks after, as Oswald wishes to steer clear of hospitals.

The questions revolving around moral ambiguity are also brought to the forefront through other characters, but on a smaller scale. Oswald, a sailor, having been absent for most of Rob’s life, tries to make amends by recording a cordial goodbye message for his son on his deathbed. Meanwhile, Kasia, who has no issues with taking part in the carjackings, shows incredible warmth and compassion towards Oswald.

Pannevis has skilfully created a realistic, isolated atmosphere; however, the story can at times feel a bit tenuous and occasionally struggles to fill out the feature-length space allotted to it. Luckily, Looted boasts a great troupe of actors to carry it at moments like that. Their true-to-nature performances are spot on and, in tandem with DoP Aadel Nodeh-Farahani’s handheld camerawork, suitably convey the socio-realistic tone of this film exploring life in between right and wrong.

Looted was commissioned by Film London under their Microwave scheme, and was produced by BBC Films, Riverhouse and the BFI Film Fund.

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