Directed by Brett Harvey
Starring Ben Dyson & Simon Harvey
Indie Film Review by Lorenzo Lombardi
“What happens on the moor… stays on the moor” is the tagline for indie film Brown Willy, and serves as an ultimate reminder of its quietly relatable and entertaining effectiveness.
Brown Willy invites the viewer on a voyage of existential contemplation and uproarious comedy as it follows two old school friends as they have a stag do (a party held shortly before a man enters marriage) in Bodmin Moor. Groom-to-be Michael (Ben Dyson) plans to reach the titular Brown Willy, the peak of Cornwall, alongside friend Pete (Simon Harvey). However, after a stop-off at the pub and another sort of consumption, they are left battling the elements as well as each other.
The granite moorland is a scenic sight filled with horses, rocks, and nothing much more. This was a great place for the story to be set in then, as it parallels the mental isolation of the characters from the world. Ben Dyson plays Michael solidly as a reserved, mature-if-dissatisfied character while Simon Harvey’s Pete is an unpredictable clinger to the past and to adolescent ideals of their teenagehood.
Viscerally, Brown Willy achieves things most micro-budget films cannot, under the careful direction of Brett Harvey. The cinematography, shot by Adam DJ Laity, of whom obtains a very promising photographic eye for beauty. Extreme long shots of landscapes and the black & white’s emitting bleakness make this film a pleasure to behold, cementing its unusual style.
Brown Willy’s themes are told in black & white frames for a reason. Pete feels disconnected from the society as others’ expectations overwhelm him. He also thinks Michael has changed since school, and not for the better, pertaining to the sense of longing in this film. On the other hand, this type of relationship has been done many times before that it feels slightly familiar. Thankfully, though, the onscreen chemistry of Dyson and Harvey make up for that, as they have many conversations and quarrels that are entertaining to watch.
Speaking of which, the script is both humorous and poignant. Themes are executed through begrudged dialogue between characters that reminisce the past and cynically look down upon the pressure and responsibilities of adulthood. Michael and Pete seemingly represent a voice inside multitudes of individuals who have not come to terms with the obligatory conformities of self-image, or the nostlagic longing to return to happier days. These desires should resonate with viewers and provoke meaningful thoughts after their experience.
Brown Willy is a beautiful and funny journey. Even in moments of near-slapstick, the film manages to keep its calm sensibility, boosted by entertaining performances and a solid script. Implementing mostly steady but incredibly stark camera angles, the viewer will feel Michael and Pete’s alienation, but also get an amusing giggle out of it.
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