Gin Lane lives. Documentary film-maker Jez Lewis returns to his hometown of Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, where many friends of his childhood are either sunk in addiction or dead: the place has witnessed an alarming spate of youth suicides.
Saddest of all is Cass, Lewis's pal from school, now a park-haunting alcoholic attended by a tumbledown court of aspiring addicts. Cass, a stepdad to teenage kids, is only 40, but under the ravages of drink and illness he looks about 60. Lewis's film inspires a grim poignancy, though it comes tinged with a sense of bafflement and annoyance: Hebden Bridge itself is an attractive former mill town, not a sink estate, and many of the addicts on camera come from loving families who know of their problems. So what's driving them to ruin? "Boredom" is one reason cited, but fear also plays a part – fear of leaving one's mates and seeking a life outside the familiar comforts of home. Lewis himself is living proof of the successful escapee and – truth be told – a rebuke to his subjects.