Gritty social-realism with an artistic edge
Director: Andrea Arnold
Cast: Natalie Press, Danny Dyer
Running time: 26 minutes
Plot: This film follows Zoë, a single mother who lives with her four children in Dartford. She is young, down on her luck and wanting more out of life. So when the opportunity arises in the form of ex boyfriend Dave, she has an important decision to make; go out and have the time of her life, or stand by her small defenceless children. Should it take a wasp for her to make it?
Short and snappy; if ‘Wasp’ is anything it’s that. Lasting a minor 26 minutes this film enables the audience to view and appreciate this film without having to sit though an hour of fillers and meaningless twists within the plot. Defying the generalisation that Oscar winning films are generally of over 2 and a half hours long, this film’s director Andrea Arnold won the award for Best Short Film 2005, proving it has been rightly accredited for this achievement.
Although this film is typical of the popular British social realism genre, it appears to grasp the audience despite its diminutive length and low budget, proving that money isn’t everything when it comes to a good storyline in this thriving industry. Although I found myself at points thinking that maybe the story was going too far or pushing the boundaries I found myself more and more captivated by the characters and their situation, making it near impossible to not empathise with them. This story appears painfully real so as much as you may want to look away, you just can’t.
Danny Dyer, from such films as ‘Severance’ (2006) and ‘The Football Factory’ (2004), makes a star appearance in this small FilmFour production and once again shows his continuous commitment to the UK film industry. From the 1990’s Danny Dyer has been one of the most sought-after London-based actors, therefore making his appearance in this film an immediate status booster. Danny Dyer’s style of acting suits this part being played as it is a part of presence and not words, he holds the screen and the audience creating sex appeal and tension between Dave and Zoë.
Social realism in films is representative of real life, with all its difficulties. Wasp certainly portrays this real life aspect in the film and carries over the everyday struggles for the viewers to empathise with Zoë and her family. However I think that this could be discouraging for the audience as it may appear too real. Most audiences seek escapism from films and by creating an authentic feel to the emotions and surroundings the viewer may be put off and find the storyline too relatable. However, even as I feel this way, you have to appreciate the artistic significance of the genre and the power it commands over the audience through the gripping plot.
Themes which occur in the film centre on the single parent Zoë and her struggles to take care of her children. This raises many topical issues that the viewer can relate to and understand due to the current benefit system and how the government fails to support single parents and their children. Another obvious theme is that of youth, in some ways you could say that this is what Zoë is trying to achieve by neglecting her children, there is no doubt that she loves them but she is trying to grasp at that bit of youth she has left and tries to go out and have a good time with her male friend. This creates identification and empathy between the characters and audience, because who can honestly say they wouldn’t love to be young again? Themes play an important role within films and are used to carry it through to the end credits; they give the viewer a base on which to place their understanding of the plot.
You have to credit the advanced workings of cinematographer Robbie Ryan for his work on this film, having worked previously with director Andrea Arnold you can see the chemistry between the collaboration and this is evidently displayed in the success of the more recent film ‘Fish Tank’ (2009) which won a BAFTA. For Wasp, Ryan adopts quite a dark visual technique, and using beautiful establishing shots of the surroundings and the general scene, which makes the characters and environment appear dirty and old, creating a more nostalgic feel to the film. On first glance you are under the impression that the film is set in the past and drawing on a gritty ‘This Is England’ style, which was another dominant film with in the social realism genre. The fast pace movement of the cameras in the beginning let you know that you are in for a treat with this film proving good things do come in small packages. You may think that this film requires a softer and slower approach due to the amount of drama and emotion held however, I believe that the contradicting use of lots of movement when not a lot is happening emphasises what is going on inside the characters and helps you to decode what is achieved by the quality of acting and not just spoon fed to the audience, overall making the viewer work for what they want to see.
Verdict: I believe that every film lover should see this film to appreciate its artistic value whether you are a fan of social realism or not. It will grip you and push you to the edge of your seat to make you experience in film form what some go through every day. I am awarding this film ****.