Filth … What’s all the fuss about? [REVIEW]

I don’t really know what to say for this movie.

I didn’t enjoy it- that’s probably the best place to start. Very disappointed, considering the hype.

Based on the book by the same name (which I haven’t read), this film is billed as a Comedy/Crime/Drama – but I didn’t feel like there was much of any of these elements. Taking a dive into the life of bipolar, Scottish cop, Bruce Robertson, played by James McAvoy, we watch as he torments himself and everyone around him, with endless mind games and trickery to turn others against each other, as he bids for promotion to Inspector. After all, “nobody plays the game like Bruce”.


The film’s main aim is to explore the psychosis of Robertson, but I didn’t feel this was done in a very clever way. Or that interesting for the matter. Lasting only 1 hour and 37 minutes, it felt a hell of a lot longer. The film spends sections of time with McAvoy’s character or his wife talking directly to the audience, or giving sly looks and winks to the audience. A movie that takes the attitude of “I know this is a movie, you know this is a movie, so let’s not pretend that it isn’t a movie” is something I don’t enjoy. I want to go and escape for a while, not be in some kind of inside joke with the filmmakers. To me it reeks of “Oh aren’t we clever, wink wink audience, look at what we’re doing wink wink.” This is a technique I don’t like, unless it is used more tongue in cheek. I like to form my own relationship with a character, not have the film presume one and force me into a conversation with them that I don’t want to be in.

A narrative structure is fine, but real time interactions between the characters and the audience … no thanks.

Robertson isn’t at all likeable, but this film has no interest in creating a character for you to root for. Which actually is a nice change from the norm. From stealing a child’s balloon, to forcing an under age girl to perform oral sex on him, Robertson is a monster and a character to despise. With a few shreds of humanity thrown in to tease the audience that there is some good in there, there really isn’t.


Although a few big names play a supporting role, this really is the James McAvoy show. And, although I didn’t like the film, I do think James McAvoy actually is really good in this movie! A more full faced McAvoy then we have previously seen, he is almost unrecognisable in this role. He plays this troubled psycho/sociopath very well, and there is some depth in the character, although a little bit weak, this can’t be blamed on McAvoy, he can only do so much with the script he is given. This role certainly opens him up to a newer audience and will likely open the door for more roles in this genre.  Jim Broadbent is in this film, although I feel this role doesn’t do him justice, more a sidelined character that we see occasionally, and in a rather warped view, his talents aren’t utilised. Eddie Marsan is okay in his role as Bladesey, a gullible pawn in Robertsons games, but the only character to really take any interest in is McAvoy’s, Robertson.

The film does take an twist towards the end, that for someone like me who hasn’t read the book, I didn’t see coming, although doesn’t provide the shock value that seems to be being claimed by a few reviews. Personally to me I felt more like, “oh, so that was what was happening, okay.”, not a “WOW! I didn’t see that coming, how clever!”. There are things that in the film that may shock viewers, but again it isn’t ground breaking stuff and is just difficult to watch. I respect a film that can make me feel uncomfortable and still compelled and interested in the story, much like Only God Forgives (which is one of my top films of 2013 so far), but Filth just doesn’t do it for me.

Not quite sure why this film is being touted as a master piece for British cinema, frankly I felt it was underwhelming, trying too hard and missing the mark. I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with me on this one, so please let me know why you think I am wrong. Maybe I just don’t get this one?

Doubtful I will ever watch this film again, a low 3 out of 10.


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