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Bypass – An intense evocation of urban decay and alienation

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Issue 2425
George MacKay as Tim in Duane Hopkins new film Bypass
George MacKay as Tim in Duane Hopkins’ new film Bypass

Bypass is set in an unnamed English industrial town in the depth of decay. 

The first scenes introduce Greg (Ben Dilloway). They cut between him with his grandfather in a working men’s pub and out on a dark street.

His once promising career as a footballer was cut short by injury. He doesn’t see much left for him except crime. 

He’s arrested for a burglary and sent down for 18 months. 

Bypass is writer and director Duane Hopkins’s second feature, after the heroin addiction drama Better Things.

Greg’s younger brother Tim is played by George MacKay, who was the suburban activist Joe in Pride. The bulk of the story is seen through his eyes. 

When Greg gets out on parole a year later their mother is dead. Tim is also forced into crime to look after their younger sister Helen (Lara Peake).

The slow pace of the first half of the film can seem disjointed, but it’s important because it explores Tim’s relationships. 

It shows how isolated he is. The film explores both the effect of poverty on a working class community, and the intense alienation and isolation that individuals face. 

This is one of its strengths, as it richly develops the bigger story as well as Tim’s character. 

One important scene is a dialogue between Tim and Greg.

 “Do you know what a foundry is?”, Greg asks. “It’s where our family used to work—granddad told me that. Now I clean shit.”

This might sound cliched, but it’s true for many living in old industrial towns. 

Tim has a difficult relationship with his sister. “Helen have you had the fucking heating on?”, he yells one morning. He is interrupted by a thumping on the front door—the bailiffs have come round again. 

He suffers both from illness and the pressures drawing him deeper into crime.  

The town itself is impossible to identify through the characters’ wide  range of accents. But this makes it feel like it could be any community mired in poverty.

The film is sometimes too self-conscious, but it avoids the pitfalls of portraying individuals as being responsible for poverty or feeling like a liberal reality TV show. 

Bypass, by Duane Hopkins, on at the London Film Festival.

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