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Stars: Sam Riley, Samantha Morton, Alexandra Maria Lara, Joe Anderson, Craig Parkinson

Director: Anton Corbijn

Films about dead rock stars don't have a great track record, but this one's better than most, even if still cloaked in gloom and misery. There are almost no smiles, in fact, in the story of the brief, troubled life of Ian Curtis (Riley), lead singer of Joy Division, a rock band who took their name from a brothel German soldiers used in World War two.

Newly married to his childhood sweetheart (Morton), Ian, who works at the local labour exchange, volunteers his services as singer to the group, and their grinding, doomy music soon sees them climbing the popularity polls.

Ian, getting carried away with the lyrics and patently giving his all on stage, is clearly the reason.

At 22, however, he suffers his first epileptic fit, and is soon on medication which barely keeps the illness in check. He takes a mistress (Lara), but can't bear the thought of his wife divorcing him. And he is beginning to crumble from the effects of life on the road. 'They want me to give more,' he says, 'and I'm not sure I can.'

Riley couldn't be better as the pressurised singer, but the film, shot in black and white in a style that recalls British realist cinema of the 1960s, lacks light and shade in more ways then one, with Morton failing to suggest any reason why Ian should be happy with her, and Lara given too little to do as the third point of the triangle. Toby Kebbell is tops in the supporting cast as the group's down-and-dirty manager.

There is no copyright date on this film.

David Quinlan

UK 2007. UK Distributor: Momentum. Black and white.
119 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 29 Sep 2007