Tin (12A) | Close-Up Film Review
Dir. Bill Scott, UK, 2014, 94 mins
Cast: Ben Dyson, Jason Squibb, Dean Nolan, Steve Jacobs, Jenny Agutter, Dudley Sutton, Benjamin Luxon
The film begins in 1890, in a small Cornish town, where life revolves around the mining industry, and business is conducted behind closed doors. Into this secretive community comes an independent opera company from the far reaches of Bristol. When the opera company and the mining community come together, it changes life for the local residents – secrets are revealed, reputations ruined, and a business scam comes under close scrutiny.
Despite the allure of period scandal and double-crossings, the film drags through it’s 90 minute length. The Miracle Theatre Company have a history of glorious and off-beat theatre productions, but this hasn’t translated naturally to a filmic environment. Tin retains a cast of strong lead characters, and a tableaux style of storytelling, that would be stunning to watch in a theatre environment. However, as a film going audience, expecting creative camerawork and stunning landscapes, the continual wide angles and long shots make for slow watching.
The story itself has a real sense of theatre – there’s a number of smaller plot lines that swell to a grand climax and reveal new elements of each character. The cast all put in strong performances, and it’s great to see a cast of relative unknowns with genuine local accents. There’s a lack of nuance though – each character has a defining characteristic – goodness, greed, meanness… it’s story telling in broad brush strokes rather than fine details.
The technique used for the film making is another point of interest – despite Cornwall’s beautiful and wide ranging scenery, the film is predominantly created with the use of green screen and constructed sets. Scenes of actors walking on treadmills, or on the spot, against a slow moving backdrop, make it hard to really be absorbed in the story being told. While the created sets are clever, it serves to reinforce the sense of Tin as theatre rather than serious filmmaking.
It’s worth noting that one strand of the story – that of a bank making dodgy business deals for mining land – is drawn from a real life account of the time. Published in 1888, the novel ‘Tin’ caused a scandal, exposing a local bank’s dodgy dealings. Cornwall’s chequered mining history, and incredible fall from wealth into relative poverty is a fascinating source for storytelling, but sadly only touched upon in this telling.
While Tin has charming elements, it feels disjointed as a whole. The combination of low budget and a theatrical approach makes it unique but perhaps not easily accessible to a filmic audience. This feels more a case of repackaging an impressive theatre company, for distribution to a wider audience, rather than actually transforming their art form into an onscreen format.
Review by Adalean Coade