The Kid -- Film Review

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EDINBURGH, Scotland -- Based on a true story, "The Kid" centers on how a young man emerged from harrowing abuse and bullying as a child as well as a life-threatening brush with criminals later on to become an accomplished writer and happily married family man.

It's thoroughly earnest and doubtless sincere, but it wears its heart on its sleeve. Director Nick Moran, a former actor, maintains a strident tone and fails to prevent his cast from going over the top. Scripted by Kevin Lewis, who told his story in a best-selling memoir, the British film could do well at home, and sold as a heartwarming tale, it could make inroads elsewhere, but its lack of subtlety is a problem.

The film opens with Kevin (Rupert Friend) being tossed beaten and bloody from a van and crawling to the hovel where he lives while declaring in a voice-over that he plans to kill himself. He has the lifelong habit of drawing images on the walls of his bedroom; watching him do that takes the film in flashback to his childhood, where drawing on the wall is the briefest respite from a terrifying home life.

Natascha McElhone is his harridan mother, and Con O'Neill is his epileptic father who spends most of his time down at the pub. Brothers and sisters squabble and fight as their parents rage at each other. It appears that he is saved when a kind nurse spots his bruises, but foster homes don't work and a dim welfare officer sends him back to domestic hell.

As he grows up, things improve, but a talent for boxing viciously intrudes on his plans for business success, and it takes a serious incident for him to change his life. Ioan Gruffud shows up as a concerned teacher, James Fox is a kindly father figure and Jodie Whittaker is Kevin's love interest.

Friend does a pretty good job of impersonating Lewis, complete with a high-pitched voice that seems incongruous until the real man shows up in an epilogue. But the tone of the film is set by McElhone's exaggerated performance as a brutal and disgusting mother who is so cartoonish as to be almost laughable.

The production never recovers, and the business and boxing scenes are underwhelming. Only when Kevin decides to face his persecutors and demand recompense does it begin to get a grip, but that's far too late.

Venue: Edinburgh International Film Festival
Production: Rainmaker Pictures
Sales: Intandem Films
Cast: Rupert Friend, Natascha McElhone, Ioan Gruffud, David O'Hara, James Fox, Jodie Whittaker
Director: Nick Moran
Screenwriters: Kevin Lewis, Nick Moran
Producer: Judith Hunt
Director of photography: Peter Wignall
Production designer: Russell De Rozario
Music: Ilan Eshkeri
Costume designer: Stephanie Collie.
Editor: Trevor Waite
No rating, 100 minutes

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