Starred Up is a simple and nuanced film that tackles a volatile father-son relationship and how this affects their lives in prison.
Instead of your standard exposition, the film fills every moment with details to keep the audience engaged. Through the dialogue, and interaction of these characters, you’ll pick up clues of a young man who already has his fair share of life in prison and sought his estranged father in a fitting yet tragic way.
Unlike what intervention reality programs love to tell you, most people don’t sit around to talk about their feelings and hug. A typical conversation between young adults and their parents, especially those with strained relationships, is either awkward or explosive. Eric and his father communicate through either violent outbursts or restrained conversations, giving viewers a glimpse of what kind of environment the kid grew up in.
As Eric gets to know his father, the more he realizes that his old man is beyond what he expected. At the same time, he has to deal with the fact that he has been starred up into an adult prison. Camerawork capture the claustrophobic environment where extreme personalities are forced to get along.
Two supporting characters – one a counselor, the other a governor – represent two interpretations of what prison ought to be. One believes that it’s a place to rehabilitate troubled individuals so they can start a new life, while the other believes that it’s meant to cage these animals lest they go back and wreak havoc in society.
Through a detail-oriented approach, the story organically develops and the plot becomes unpredictable. Jonathan Asser’s experience as a counselor injected real-life insights into the film and made it very believable. The film doesn’t rely on melodrama or sappy sentimentality.
The well-written script is bolstered by epic performances. Each actor in the cast portrayed a realistic character that could exist somewhere out there behind bars. Jack O’Connell already showed that he has a huge potential in Skins, and goes on to continue proving his talent. Other veterans – Ben Mendelsohn and Rupert Friend – are also worth pointing out for giving back the same gripping acting.
The movie ends with a hopeful conclusion for Eric and his father. It’s not the best, but they at least get the closure they need. Starred Up teaches us that the right choice is often the hardest option.
Starred Up is a riveting Prison drama thanks to a well-written script, captivating performances and a realistic depiction of life in prison.