Directed by Graham Higgins
Starring Alex Humes & Mark Arnold
Indie Film Review by Lorenzo Lombardi
Lauded by the NYC Independent Film Festival by winning “Best Narrative Feature” as well as a decent bit of favourable reviews, Mile End is an unsurely conveyed, but ultimately fascinating, production that interweaves relatable themes with skilful execution that all boils down to a semi-successful character study.
Mile End follows Paul (Alex Humes), a simple and reserved man who questions his competence after suddenly getting fired from his job. Unknowing of the future, he finds solace and self-improvement in marathon running. During one jog, Paul meets John (Mark Arnold), an upbeat and philosophical American man. They both discuss topics such as struggle and employment, and eventually become friends. John’s outlook on life revolves around bending the rules, which he follows to a fault.
Humes is decent as an everyman who suddenly gets his life turned around by one person (a trope we should see more). However, notably outshining Humes, Arnold steals the show by giving a performance that demonstrates two sides to his persona. One side is a friendly Jack Lemmon-esque character that simply wants to help, and the other is unexpectedly psychotic. It is impressive to convey a sense of initial likeability and then turn that into equal uneasiness for the character.
This other persona paves a way for Mile End’s shocking tonal transmute that is chilling but sometimes slightly unfitting. I did not presume that a film about marathon running would turn into a psychological thriller, but it does this effectively enough given the unusual running theme.
Production values are crisp and polished in Mile End. Anna Valdez-Hanks shoots the backdrop of East London with care and precision, leaving it to be a reminder of many people’s harsh world of unemployment. Ed Scolding sets the score and it undertones the film very well, with credits due to his first attempt at a feature film.
It is a shame, then, that it does not feel like one entity since the indie film tries to establish its chain of events with scattershot pacing and a forgettable script (if you discount the few well-written analogies and expressions about ambition and adversities). A lack of good supporting performances and characters also level it down, but Mile End is an entertaining thriller that provides viewers with enough intelligence to figure out reveals and nuances that even David Fincher would be proud of. Run into this and you will not look back.