2016’s Away is small film which has a lot going for it. Set in a wintery Blackpool, David Blair’s drama focuses on the friendship between widower Joseph (Timothy Spall) and Juno Temple’s Rita, a prostitute on the run from her violent pimp (Matt Ryan). The pair’s lives converge at the point when they need each other most and they find a new, positive way of looking at the world through their joint desperation. However, their solace is soon ruined when the darkness of the past catches up with them. Things get complicated when Rita’s pimp tracks her down and when she falls into the Blackpool underworld at the hands of Susan Lynch’s low level crime queen.
Away’s tale (written by Roger Hadfields) is presented in a variety of flashbacks, which illustrate how our characters came to meet in the ‘Las Vegas of the North’. There’s a simplicity to the story which doesn’t get in the way of the performances – the key driving force behind the film’s success.
Timothy Spall is excellent as the grumpy Joseph, a man who is at the point of suicide following the death of his wife. Spall’s hang-dog look is perfect for the character and he gets across a grizzled emotion that few others could achieve. As Rita, Juno Temple delivers a heartfelt performance which is laced with many colours. Temple is one of the most fearless actresses working today and she always thrives in parts large and small. Spall and Temple have tremendous chemistry, a little and large act who are as funny as they are heartbreaking.
There’s a fairy tale quality to Away which adds to its off-beat charm. The lights of a bleak Blackpool help give the film a strange, sparkling beauty, which is most unexpected considering the tacky location and the film’s dark narrative. This isn’t an overtly commercial film, but it holds enough cards to capture an audience willing to participate in the lives of these two failed people.
Heartfelt and emotional, Away is about the search for hope and humanity amongst the lights of Blackpool. The film features top tier performances from Timothy Spall and Juno Temple, highlighting that you don’t need pyrotechnics to captivate an audience.