Bypass (18) Close-Up Film Review

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Dir. Duane Hopkins, UK, 2014, 105 mins

Cast: George Mackay, Benjamin Dilloway, Laura Peake and Charlotte Spencer 

What is going on at 16 Greenwood Avenue? This is the focus of Duane Hopkins’ follow-up to his 2008 debut Better Things, a place in which a discovery sets in motion the dissolution of a family already in the midst of heartache.

Bypass follows the story of three siblings as they attempt to survive in a world that has already taken from them their father and threatens to take their mother. After older brother Greg (Benjamin Dilloway) is sentenced to 18 months in prison for burglary, this leaves middle child Tim (George MacKay) and younger sibling Helen (Lara Peake) to fend for themselves as Tim becomes the head of his household all too soon.

The BFI funded drama picks up a year later as we watch Tim attempt to achieve a semblance of balance between his girlfriend Lilly (Charlotte Spenser, also seen in Channel 4’s Glue) as well as guardianship over his younger sister who has, by this time, a lengthy truancy binge. After taking over his brother’s dodgy dealings in an attempt to make money and keep a roof over his and his sister’s heads, Bypass explores in totality Tim’s struggles as he is, rather unexpectedly, diagnosed with a mystery illness that threatens to kill him.

Hopkins’ melancholic film plays out against a very recognizable British backdrop. As his characters attempt to find some sought of normality in a situation that is far from normal, Hopkins’ focus remains steadfast throughout, painting a very powerful, intimate portrait with newcomer George MacKay at its centre. In many instances we sees Tim’s memories of his childhood, which he incants in a series of solemn monologues about his father. Bypass contains heavy nostalgic elements.

The employment of handheld cameras effectively tracks the characters’ fast movements, adding an air of realism to the film; as if Bypass could be anyone’s story. Cinematography is well considered, as Bypass maintains a dull and semi-translucent aesthetic as reality and memory become increasingly intertwined.

The film is both fast paced and slow, taking a welcomed break at times of reflection or affection between Tim and Lilly, as the pair appear to be genuinely in love, both sharing similar backstories.

More than anything, it is the sorrowful story of the film’s principal character that is the true triumph of the film. Hopkins is relentless when depicting Tim’s story as you genuinely feel for MacKay’s character. With an absent brother, his sister’s growing resistance, rising rent payments and the threat of bailiffs, to this then, Hopkins adds the threat of death as Tim’s illness causes him to have symptoms such as seizures, nausea and rashes. A sense of impending doom is present as Tim’s veins become more and more discoloured.

Bypass is firmly MacKay’s film. A quiet, reflective conception that makes strides in dissecting a family on the downturn, Hopkins explores this using a number of techniques, most effective of which are the monologues of Tim and Greg which act as audio for the film’s multiple flashbacks.

There is a clear sensitivity about Hopkins’ direction that extends to a scene in which Tim plays with a strand of his mother’s hair, in a sequence that is full of compassion for his principal character. With the spirit of his parents littered throughout the film, this begs the question of whether they are a symbol for the film’s ending?

As Bypass turns full circle, Hopkins pushes things further as Tim’s world begins to implode, encompassing everyone around him. Ultimately, in this moment, Hopkins poses the biggest question: Will Tim be able to pull everything together before his illness kills him?

Review by Rayvenn Shaleigha D’Clark

Rayvenn Shaleigha D’Clark

Author: Rayvenn Shaleigha D’Clark

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