The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael (18) <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Writer-director Thomas Clay's feature debut is a grim bulletin from Asbo Britain that turns horrifically nasty. Set in the lowering, wind-whipped coastal town of Newhaven, home to a moribund fishing industry, it focuses on a middle-class schoolboy (Daniel Spencer) who plays the cello and has fallen in with bad company, including a hoodie (Ryan Winsley) with a flourishing career in drugs. Clay shapes a convincing portrait of life eked out in sad social clubs and backrooms peopled by middle-aged men with nothing to do and densensitised youths who half-notice the Iraq war on TV.

Hauntingly shot by cinematographer Yorgos Arvanitis, the film will be remem- bered for two rape sequences, one off-screen, the other very harrowingly on. Clay tips his director's hat self-consciously to A Clockwork Orange and to Michael Haneke's even more disturbing Funny Games - he's been to film school - though his marrying of atrocious sexual abuse with footage of Churchill and the Second World War is ill-conceived. His earlier observation of male rage felt sufficient without trying to stir a larger political relevance into the murk. It's a horrible film to sit through, but that may not stop you looking out for Clay's name in future.

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