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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.
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on March 15, 2005
Robert Carlyle is brilliant in this kind of role-violent, shiftless, abusive guy who somehow lulls those closest to him into a certain blindness and obeisance to his brutality. He reappears on the scene in his ex-girlfriend's life when he sees quiet, mild-mannered Dek (Rhys Ifans) proposing to Shirley on a tv talk show. When she refuses the proposal, Jimmy (Carlyle) sees it as his grand opportunity to claim the one who got away. Shirley is portrayed by Shirley Henderson, who seems to pop up in small, unusual but often pivotal roles (24 Hour Party People, for example). When Jimmy resurfaces, Dek cowers, backs down, not fighting for the woman he loves, much to the disappointment of Shirley's precocious child, who considers Dek her father.

Eventually Dek finds his nerve and sends Jimmy packing, but only once he hits rock bottom and decided to take what's rightfully his-not by resorting to stupidity but by using his love, sensitivity and stability.
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on May 27, 2011
I like the actors in the film and the romantic comedy/ drama theme. I had seen this film previous, which is the reason why I purchased it-I knew I liked the movie. The seller/shipper sent the movie quickly and I was happy overall with the order, shipping & product.
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From the days when it was a legal requirement to cast either Robert Carlyle or Rhys Ifans if you wanted to get lottery funding for a British film, Once Upon a Time in the Midlands is another in Shane Meadows' line of deeply disappointing films before he finally came into his own with Dead Man's Shoes. To be fair, the project went through major development Hell, and the results are all too obvious in the sketchy construction and characterization. Carlyle's bad boy spurred into winning back his wife Shirley Henderson (sporting the most irritating little girly voice in history) from nice guy Ifans after seeing her on a daytime TV show is never really developed or even properly introduced, and the plot, such as it is, doesn't get going until the movie is half over. The tone is awkward, with Carlyle opting for convincingly unpleasant naturalism while Ifans lapses too often into sitcom acting, leaving the acting honors to go to Kathie Burke. There are a couple of excellent moments at a park bandstand and a final confrontation that hint at a better film that could have been, but it's all too easy to share Meadows' own disappointment with the film as a whole.
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on January 1, 2013
While the story has merit, the endless scenes of stupidity were tiresome. Who wants to watch morons constantly fighting, smashing things and people, living in filthy homes? Acting was good, but the show was a big disappointment.
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on February 15, 2004
This is a mixed film, containing love, humour and hate. All delecatly combined to produce something like this. Although some parts you do kind of loose interest, but brings you back in with the hard true love that one man has for his lady, and what he will do in order to get it. This is a good film, defenatly one I would recommend.
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on September 14, 2009
Yes, the accents ARE thick, and there are no English subtitles. (Dreadful oversight.) You can manage, but there were a few chunks of dialogue where I did not know what was said.

I saw A Room for Romeo Brass some years ago, and it was fun to see the same actors reappear. And the same theme. An ancient one, how evil can look alluring, but ultimately, it is destructive and dangerous. I won't rehash the plot; others have done it at length. What you see here is a slight girl who has a dull existence unable to choose it permanently because she remembers the passion of life with Jimmy, a small time hoodlum who is the father of her daughter. When Jimmy reappears, she thinks she sees a chance to re-ignite that passion. But the daughter, unblinded by the longing mom feels, sees clearly what the right choice is, and forces the adolescents disguised as adults around her to act like adults. Simple tale, not, as the blurb here says, disturbed by the thug subplot, but enhanced by the light comedy they supply, while never letting their menacing evil be overlooked. They aren't killers, but they are bad men, and we never forget that.

Shane Meadows meshes these two tales perfectly, and creates a sober look at a pile of weak, selfish adults who are unable or unwilling to protect the child they have created. We all know women like Shirley, who often sacrifice their children to violent and abusive men, because the love they seek cannot be provided by a normal man. We all know men like Jimmy, who act as if everything exists to satisfy their whims and desires.

Oh, if there were only more Marlenes! What a great performance. It is hard not to believe that everyone involved in the production of this film knows a little too closely how divorce, selfishness, and abandonment damages families. Nicely done.
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on June 5, 2010
the movie was good. it was right in the middle of shane meadows movies for me; not the best and not the worst. my husband liked it better then i did. it had a little bit of everything for everyone in it and a happy ending.
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on February 28, 2010
This was a great performance for Robert Carlyle. The typical bad boy wants things to go bact the way they were only they can't. A wonderful love story with some broken hearts all around.
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on June 4, 2012
This is a very good story I am glad I got to see. It is different from some and I liked it. I have seen it more than once and I enjoy it. thank you.
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