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When Jimmy Comes Back to His Ex-Wife... Amusing UK Drama
on September 23, 2004
Though the title sounds like a Sergio Leone film, or any Italian made Westerns, 'Once Upon a Time in Midlands' is a low-key British comedy-drama starring Robert Carlyle ('Full Monty'), Kathy Burke (Nil By Mouth'), Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle in 'Harry Potter'), and Rhys Ifans ('Notting Hill'). Opinions divide among the viewers, especially the critics who find similar themes in recent UK films -- like gangsters -- but the similarity is only on the surface.
Robert Carlyle is a Scotsman Jimmy, who happens to have see his ex-wife Shirley (Shirley Henderson) on TV show (imagine British Jerry Springer show). There, another guy, Welshman Dek (surprisingly normal Ifans) asks Shirley to marry him, holding a bundle of flowers. Contrary to his expectations, he is rejected. Now that's a sign for Jimmy to reclaim the once lost love.
From Glasgow (where he is involved in a petty crime such as robbing clowns), Jimmy returns Shirley's home in the Midlands (part located in north of London). Can he get back her love? Or her daughter who considers Dek is her father? And what will those three criminals do, who follow Jimmy from Scotland to this town? Can Dek hold his own, and keep Shirley's love to the end?
It is not hard to tell the outcomes, and you know the answer. Kathy Burke plays the nagging middle-aged woman who loves bingo games, uses very bad languages, but still has a heart of gold. Carlyle is also the same kind of guy you saw in 'Trainspotting' -- when he is in good mood, he could be a nice guy, but potentially he could raise hell, and we know it. I don't say they are typecast; but some might think so.
But at the heart of the film there is a generous, feel-good mood, which manage to raise the film one notch up above the average British films. Director Shane Meadows handles the characters with certain kind of tenderness, and that feeling is conveyed to you very naturally.
With evocative Western score, the film often looks as if parodying the rules of the Western film genre. In fact, the film has a distict tinge of a British one, with a slightly comic touch. (And accents are thick, but you can understand them as the story goes on.) Look at this one as a family drama, and you will be entertained pretty much.