Daniel Green London Film Festival

#LFF 2018: Happy New Year, Colin Burstead review

★★★★☆

Down Terrace director Ben Wheatley returns to the horror of kinship with Happy New Year, Colin Burstead (working title Colin You Anus), which received its world premiere at this year’s London Film Festival.

The film stars Wheatley regular Neil Maskell – in a career-best performance – as the titular Colin/anus, an unremarkable everyman desperate to unite his dysfunctional family for one special New Year’s Eve shindig. The chosen venue is a coastal manor house, four hours drive from civilisation as his relatives continually bemoan, providing a scenic backdrop for a sporadically hilarious, always absorbing descent into bickering hell.

Seemingly every member of the Burstead clan – and even those on the periphery – have an axe to grind with one or more members of the family. Most of these vendettas appear to revolve around Dave (Sam Riley), Colin’s brother and son of the Burstead patriarch (and practising alcoholic) Gordon (Bill Paterson). Having cheated on his wife and abandoning her and his children five years prior, Dave swans into the party with his German girlfriend Karen (Alexandra Maria Lara) in tow, much to the collective horror of those that didn’t even realise he had been invited by Colin’s younger sister, Gini (Hayley Squires).

Needless to say, what was already a fractious reunion takes a severe nose-dive upon Dave’s arrival, with the ensemble cast – including Asim Chaudhry, Joe Cole, Doon Mackichan and Charles Dance as you’ve never seen him before – taking it in turns to either duck for cover or stir the pot. While Wheatley’s latest may be destined for the BBC and its iPlayer on-demand service this Christmas, the roving cinematography of Laurie Rose and another ominous score courtesy of Clint Mansell ensure that Colin Burstead works just as well on the big screen as the small screen. What’s more, Wheatley aficionados will appreciate the fact that though this is his first film in which no one actually *dies*, his trademark visual flourishes remain intact.

A Festen-of-sorts for post-Brexit vote Britain, where conflict and outrage are always one misplaced remark away, Happy New Year, Colin Burstead marks a return by one of the country’s brightest filmmaking talents to the claustrophobic family deathmatches of Down Terrace and Sightseers. While it may be a little too acidic for some palettes – comparisons with Sally Potter’s The Party are a little wide of the mark – those who dread the annual family get-together round the telly at Christmas will find plenty to cringe over.

The BFI London Film Festival takes place from 10-21 October. whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff

Daniel Green