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Bolan's Shoes


Stars: Leanne Best, Timothy Spall, Mark Lewis Jones, Dyfan Dwyfor, Mathew Horne, Holli Dempsey

Director: Ian Puleston-Davies

Prolific TV actor Puleston-Davies' first cinema film as director provides the groundwork for tour de force acting performances from Best and Spall in a story difficult to relate in a review, as its structure allows for multiple spoilers, some of which it would be unfair to reveal. Suffice to say that a somewhat confusing storyline is ironed out before the end.

The narrative opens in 1976, as a party of sub-teens from a Liverpool children's home, accompanied by their in-house vicar and his 10-year-old daughter, journey by coach to attend a concert headlined by T Rex and their charismatic lead singer Marc Bolan.

Sharp-tongued little Sadie (Amelia Rose Warner), who bloodies one boy's face in a fight along the way, steals a pair of Bolan's shoes, some of which were on display at the theatre. On the way back, however, Sadie's older brother Jimmy (Isaac Lancel-Washington) is bullied into letting off a firework, leading to a panic which causes the coach to crash, killing nine, including the vicar's daughter, and injuring more.

Cut to the present, and mentally-fragile Penny (Best), married to a vicar (Lewis Jones) but constantly muttering 'Keep calm, don't argue!' when not smashing her face into a mirror, is a obviously a time bomb set to go off.

On a visit to Bolan's shrine in London, Penny encounters a Balloon Man (Spall), who shocks everyone there by collapsing with a seizure. Later, Penny dyes her hair and leaves home, once again encountering the Balloon Man, who proves to be


her long-lost brother Jimmy. Living rough in a caravan, he suffers from schizo-effective disorder, but gradually they piece their relationship back together. Further shocking revelations from the past, however, are still in store.

Puleston-Davies' screenplay provides epic, heartfelt monologues for the two leads, as well as the admirable Lewis Jones and, although the 23-year age gap between Best and Spall is a little disconcerting at first, you do get used to it. As a lesson in pain, grief and guilt, this has few equals in recent times, although filmgoers should be warned that the film is also very slow indeed. A word, though for Richard Swingle's colour photography: beautiful throughout.

David Quinlan

UK 2022. UK Distributor: Munro Film Services. Colour (unspecified).
98 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 10 Sep 2023