Ruby Blue (Jan Dunn, 2008)
Jan Dunn returned to the Isle of Thanet for her second feature, again on a low budget, but this time illuminated by Bob Hoskins’s last big screen appearance. We appear to be — and forgive me if this is a cliché of my reading of British film — in Ken Loach territory, as Kes seems to be in the mix. I will be circumspect, but there are hints of spoilers.
Jack (Hoskins) is a widower, recovering alcoholic and pigeon racer, estranged from his son and his family and grumpy at all the neighbours. This shield begins to crack as he is befriended by and befriends his neighbour Stephanie (Josiane Balasko), former rapscallion Ian (Jody Latham) and a couple of young children. Ian wants to become rich by racing pigeons, whilst his friendship with the children may be viewed with suspicion and Stephanie’s history is more complex than Jack realises.
Hostility and revenge builds, and Jack finds himself victimised as a paedophile and accused of something worse when Florrie goes missing. Hoskins is fantastic and utterly believable, a complex portrayal of grief and repressed rage. I recognise the type, and of course you can never believe that he is guilty of the charges laid against him.
You do worry about the fate of his prize pigeon, however.
But whilst Dunn stacks everything she can against him — perhaps excessively — this leads a resolution tough for her to find. If this were Loach, it would be very grim indeed, although you may possibly be relieved it isn’t. Redemption is perhaps too easy and too neat — even as I’d been wondering about another character’s redemption much earlier in the film. I wanted to believe, but I fear real life isn’t as easy even if it is as dark.