Borrowed Time (2012), the debut feature from Jules Bishop, is a warm-hearted micro-indie that cleanses the palate of all those overdone, dank and dull British kitchen sink dramas. It’s topped off with a gleeful performance from Phil Davis as an agoraphobic curmudgeon, and Theo Barklem-Biggs (of The Inbetweeners Movie fame) as a down-on-his-luck hoodie with a heart. This character-driven drama concerns Kevin, a gormless teen living on a council estate in Stratford, who finds himself in trouble with a local drug-dealer, the utterly barmy “Ninja” Nigel (Warren Brown), having managed to lose a stash of cannabis.
Ordered to pay back the cash equivalent, Kevin decides to burgle a pensioner’s house, only to find himself face to face with Philip (Davis), a blunderbuss-toting grouser, whose abode is populated with Norman Bates-style stuffed animals. Surprisingly, the pair strike up an unlikely friendship proving that, as different as they seem, they may have more in common than they initially realise. Whilst the kitchen sink drama is far from exhausted, the sour taste of seeing working-class life depicted as brutal, cruel and absent of pleasure is quickly becoming tiring. So, throwing caution to the wind, Bishop expels these concepts. and with this deft screenplay allows the tone to shift between the comic and the tragic with ease.
On of a handful of ‘name’ actors involved with the project, Davis certainly dominates Borrowed Time, playing as he does a retired schoolteacher who has lost his family due to a destructive bout of alcoholism. He now spends his days practising taxidermy, even picking up the corpses of squirrels off the curb, much to the chagrin of his nosey neighbours. Barklem-Biggs’ clownish Kevin is an equally lonely soul whose only remaining family – his sister (Juliet Oldfield) and her son – have spurned him due to his seemingly idiotic life choices. In many ways, despite their age gap and radically different upbringings, Phil and Kevin are made for each other.
The producers of Borrowed Time looked to crowd-funding site Kickstarter in order to cover the costs of self-distribution – a sadly common case these days. Had a distributor taken the plunge, they would have found themselves with a remarkable, albeit small, British oddity that’s a pleasure to watch from beginning to end. A recent advert for a well-known fast-food chain has also tried to engender the idea that young and old council estate dwellers can bond, yet the result was positively mawkish. Thankfully, Bishop’s debut is anything but maudlin, having cunningly paired an established talent with a likeable rising star.