The Director of the soon to be released film Urban and the Shed Crew (from Blenheim Films), Candida Brady, shared a new promotional image for the film on Monday (thanks to Teresa A and RANet for pointing me to it):
candida brady @candidabrady Jul 6
“I love this photo by Alistair Morrison of Chop, Greta and Urban aka Richard Armitage Anna Friel and Fraser Kelly”
I have to say that I love this image, too! The nuanced symbolism in this image of this fractured and made up family speaks to me–especially with Richard Armitage’s character as a father figure.
Though the boy Urban (Fraser Kelly, far right) lives on the streets and has no real father present in his life acting as a parent, his neglectful mother Greta’s (Anna Friel, far left) onetime boyfriend and former social worker Chop (Richard Armitage, middle) steps up and fills that role of father/mentor.
The boy leaning into the father figure Chop in this image in a relaxed way reflects a trust and a comfort with each other. And we see the fatherly protectiveness evident in Chop’s hand lightly resting over the boy Urban’s shoulder (inset of cropped image, right). And both the man and the boy have their hands in their right pocket. It’s a small thing, but to me it illustrates a mirroring of behavior–that can happen in relationships, especially with children who crave someone to look up to. Perhaps the child thinks that by imitating the man, he can find his way out of his adolescent childhood and become a man, too, one day.
And with this film image’s depiction of the separation of the mother from her child with literally a brick wall between them, conveys to me that the emergence of Chop as a father figure in the young boy Urban’s life creates a divide between the child and his neglectful mother Greta. And Anna Friel embues Greta with a wounded quality–especially with Ms. Friel being so petite, her looking like not much more than a child, herself. We see the mother looking back over her shoulder–perhaps wondering if she could yet become a true caring parent to her child–or perhaps her thinking that it is too late for her. Urban is not looking in his mother’s direction. He is looking down at the ground, or at his shoe. Not everyone can be a good parent. And not everyone finds their parental figures only in blood relation family members. Sometimes a friend can serve that parental role–as Chop does for Urban. Urban has found a guiding parental figure in Chop, and Urban is probably wary of this mother’s intentions–let alone her ability to focus upon even his basic needs. Urban has learned not to trust his mother. And that is heartbreakingly sad.
And yet, Chop (portrayed by the exquisitely talented British actor Richard Armitage who recently won Best Supporting Actor at this years 41st Annual Saturn Awards) is leaning into the brick wall toward Urban’s mother Greta. Chop is even facing in Urban’s mother’s direction–with an expression of poignancy, and perhaps of resignation. From this image, we might think that Chop in helping the son might also be able to help the mother–or at least try to help her. Or, Chop might be conveying that “Your son will be safe, I will keep him safe for you.”
For children living on the margins of society–as depicted in Bernard Hare’s non-fiction book “Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew”, upon which this film is based–the difference between survival and thriving is a vast chasm. Here is the Amazon summary of the book:
“You’re twelve years old. Your mother’s a junkie and your father might as well be dead. You can’t read or write, and you don’t go to school. An average day means sitting round a bonfire with your mates smoking drugs, or stealing cars. Welcome to Urban’s world. Bernard ‘Chop’ Hare was on society’s margins, living on one of Leeds’ roughest estates and with a liking for drink and drugs. So he knew what life in the underclass was like in ’90s Britain. But even he was shocked when he met Urban, an illiterate, glue-sniffing twelve-year-old. And through Urban he got to know the Shed Crew — an anarchic gang of kids between the ages of ten and fourteen; joy-riding, thieving runaways, who were no strangers to drugs or sex. Nearly all had been in care, but few adults really cared. Bernard decided to do what he could. He didn’t know what he was letting himself in for.”
And by his own admission, Bernard Hare’s life at the time he began working with the street children–on whom the character of Chop is based–was faring little better than similar to the children’s lives. Though a social worker by profession, Chop/Hare had devolved into a drug taking and boozing leech who lived on the margins of society. Perhaps it was this common ground of societal isolation that gave Chop insights into the precarious world that these children inhabited–and thus a way for him to connect with them so that he could help them.
Bernard Hare’s story is gritty and unflinching about people and their behavior–and I hope that the film will be, too. But this is also a story of redemption and self direction–for Chop and for Urban. And eventually, Chop/Hare became a real father to Urban when he adopted him. So for me, Chop’s and Urban’s story is a hopeful one–an uplifting and inspiring story. I have ordered Bernard Hare’s book and look forwarding to reading it in the coming week–then seeing the film when it comes out. I do hope that the film is released in the U.S.
Bernard Hare’s memoir titled Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew reminds us that even in the most despairing circumstances, there can be a glimmer of hope. For Urban, he found his hope in Chop. And for Chop/Hare, he found his hope, his purpose in life, and his self-worth again, in helping Urban and the other marginalized street children. Bravo, Mr. Hare!
And kudos for Richard Armitage who plays the flawed hero Chop, for bringing this inspiring story to life via the film, Urban and the Shed Crew!
So to close as we eagerly anticipate this film, here is the UATSC trailer released recently, the video capture is courtesy of Guillermina (Thanks!: