Oct 7, 2023
Emma Lindsay. Craig Clelland
There’s something depressing about a council estate. Whilst it’s true there’s often plenty of life and joy, with feelings of community amongst their residents sometimes ebbing through into the media, more often they’re presented, not unjustly, in a negative light. They are hotbeds for crime and drugs, in which youths frequently turn to violence and cannabis. They’re grey and depressing, something not helped by the miserable British weather, but moreover the central underlying factor is the collective poverty of such areas. This, as shown in ‘Sloansy’ - a film which does just enough to get by but never really excites or says anything profound - is the source of the problems inherent to council estates.
‘Sloansy’ centres around a woman called Jeanie Harlow (Emma Lindsay), struggling to raise her infant son on a Scottish council estate in 1999. Scottish council estates, particularly at that time and around the big cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, are particularly rough, with drugs proliferating and gangs haunting every corner. Such is the environment that Jeanie lives in, with matters going from difficult to even more difficult when she receives a letter saying that her aptitude for care for her son is being examined.
Her neighbours have reported some of her concerning behaviour to the authorities, who are now threatening to take away her son unless she can prove her ability to care for him and disprove their belief that she is not in the best position to provide and that she and her son are residing in poor living conditions for his development. That this is established in the opening minute should set up for an engaging ten minute short, in which Jeanie falls victim to the pressures of the council estate in order to find a way to provide for her son and pass the aptitude test. However, writer and director Cameron Bissett is more intent on a slow, meditative approach than creating an engaging story, with ‘Sloansy’ more emblematic of the monotony of life on a council estate than the hardships and rough times that it aims to portray.
To take such an approach is not necessarily a bad thing - though there are perhaps a few too many drawn out shots of the side of buildings - however, both Bissett’s writing and his directing lack a spark needed to truly ignite the film or bring any of his ideas, which seem nuanced, to life. Instead, ‘Sloansy’ trundles along at a slow pace, with dialogue that feels incredibly forced when spoken, not particularly changing as Jeanie makes contact with a gang member. She remains the same hollow shell as before, and her stagnancy reflects that of the film. There isn’t enough significance or dramatic levity to any of Jeanie’s interactions or movements throughout to engage the audience, and as such the film loses focus, ending on a bland whimper.
Therefore, whilst the concept of ‘Sloansy’ and the ideas that it wants to present are intriguing and show potential, this does not translate effectively to screen, with it instead being a rather dire affair.