Film Review: ‘Terry’


Nick Nevern’s debut Terry (2011) is an impressive first outing, more so when you consider that Nevern himself not only wrote, produced and directed the feature, but also starred. The plot hinges on a young film student, Charlie Ruez who makes a documentary in 2009 about the life of an unemployed, working-class man named Terry. Later this year, this footage is seized by the Metropolitan Police and subsequently released for public viewing.

The mockumentary style of this film really works and, as we have seen from many talented directors, such as Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick, often serves as a good medium for first-time film makers. Such films can be made on an extremely small budgets and the fact that this was shot for just five-nudred pounds makes it undeniably impressive.

The film depicts a gang of working-class, unemployed criminals (mostly drug dealers) and the violence that fills their lives. Divided up into small chapter-like sections, each with its own title, the film guides us through this underworld towards a dramatic conclusion. Nevern’s performance as Terry is convincing and truly terrifying and both the character and film serve to deftly demonstrate the cruelly violent and temporary life-style of low-level gang members. The supporting actors, Ian Duck and Daniel Burton-Shaw, as Spencer and Billy-Black, also give outstanding performances.

The narrative has its fill of drug use, sex and violence, all of which are used to a convince us of the brutality of this un-chartered social demographic. The entire film is, in fact, highly voyeuristic and not only because it borrows its style from documentaries. Ruiz’s character develops a dual response to the material he is filming. Initially, as a film student, he seems almost to quietly mock the other characters, wanting only to observe in a non-invasive, objective manner. However, by the time we arrive at the “Initiation” chapter, the previously dissociated student has already been exposed to so much that his ability to retain the status of an outsider has greatly diminished.

Slowly, and without really being conscious of the progression, Ruiz becomes more involved in the criminal underworld. The irony is that he has always been involved, simply through the act of filming something that will ultimately be handed over to the police.

Half-way through, the episodic documentary style gives way to the overarching plot which, at times, is a little clunky and contrived. Structurally, it is reminiscent of a more hap-hazard version of the traditional ‘tragic arch’ and as such, the ending is inevitably a little bit clichéd. As a whole, however, Nervern’s natural ability to weld an impressive social authenticity with a pre-existing plot shines through, for which he should be given full credit.

Nevern’s consistent and unpretentious commitment to authenticity has enabled a five-hundred pound project to achieve a level of accuracy and illumination that many productions with a budget in excess of fifty-million have failed to. Terry will be released on 10 March and will be given a limited cinema run before becoming available on DVD. All film lovers should keep an eye on Nevern.

Joe Walsh