Coronation Street veteran Ian Puleston-Davies makes his directorial debut with this good-hearted and handsomely shot dramedy. It’s the kind of film that rarely sees a cinema release anymore – its human-scale concerns, committed acting and appeal to the recollections of the baby boomer generation likely to find a readier audience on television.
The film opens in Liverpool, in an economically but effectively evoked 1970s. A busload of young people from a children’s home are en route to see a concert by T. Rex when tragedy strikes. Now, in the present day, one of the children from said bus is a dishevelled eccentric played by Timothy Spall, lovingly tending to a shrine to T. Rex’s frontman, the late Marc Bolan. There, he is approached by Penny (ITV Sunday-night drama mainstay Leanne Best), the daughter of the vicar who once worked at the children’s home. It doesn’t take a genius to see that this is headed for painful revelations and ultimate uplift.
For all its conventionality, the film is aiming at a tricky balance. There is a disjuncture between the tinselly nostalgia of T. Rex and the realities of what the lead characters experienced in their childhood. Whether this unbalances the film or not is probably dependent on how much these experiences (of fandom and/or of childhood trauma) resonate with the viewer. At any rate, the performances keep it honest. Spall has the showier role, but Best anchors the film.
Always somehow both slipperier and more lightweight than, say, chief contemporary David Bowie, T. Rex are a curious proposition to hang a film around. For one thing, their music is delightful principally because it never really seems to be about anything. Bolan’s Shoes tries to be about lots of things – to perhaps varying degrees of success – but it gets by on sincerity.
Words: David Turpin
Director: Ian Puleston-Davies
Release Date: September 15