CE Films - Part 2 - 1991

Derek Bentley
12 Sep (Toronto Film Festival) 1991
Film | Dir. Peter Medak | Wr. Neal Purvis & Robert Wade
Role: Derek Bentley (mentally disabled youth).

Video example - Gallery - IMDb - Get: Region 1, Region 2

Alex: "This was the first time Chris Eccleston carried a film. He plays Derek Bentley who was convicted of a murder he didn't commit. The film tells the story of his life – life that was ended when he was 19 years old. His trial was one of the greatest judicial failures in the courts of Great Britain."

Chiclit: "Young Chris, playing a real-life character. There is a rawness both to his look, his physicality and his work. It's a post-war period piece with a message. Chris plays a brain damaged young man who wants to fit in, and it's a heart breaking performance. You sort of understand how the parents are conflicted about protecting him and letting him live as normal a life as possible – with a bad outcome."

A: "The time period, depicted in the film, is convincing. The narrative generally avoids resting on mere facts or lulling with artificial emotional sweeteners. But it's far from perfect. Iris Bentley said in the book she wrote about her brother, "they [film's authors] took no notice of what I said. That's what upset Chris Eccleston. He felt they were making Derek out to be more normal than he was." (Read the rest of the extracts here on the blog) They were also trying to present Derek more positively which is entirely beside the point. No matter if you're nice or ugly, you shouldn't be hanged. (Eccleston talked about it f.ex. during his Masterclass) Despite the problems, the feature does show the world the way Derek Bentley saw it.

"At the time the film was made and released, Derek Bentley's family was still fighting to clear his name. This film helped people understand the case or even – become aware of it. Although after 46 years Bentley was pardoned, it's still not possible to watch it in a detached way.

"Trivia: Derek Bentley's father is played by Tom Courtenay – Smith from 'The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner'."

Conclusion: The film is still very relevant, very watchable and poignant, and is a remarkable first milestone. One may doubt the film-makers' approach, but it's easy to agree with Iris Bentley: "Chris's performance is what makes [the film] for me."

More details on Derek Bentley's case here (the site appears abandoned, but it's still informative).

DVD Notes: 
2007 "ILC Entertainment" All Regions. No subtitles, no extras.

15 Oct 1991
TV series | Dir. Matthew Evans | Wr. Jim Hill & Bill Stair
S. 6, ep. 4: 'Coverup'
Role: Mark (disaffected youth).

Video example - Gallery - IMDb - Get: Region 2

Alex: "Another early role. Mark, a lad not exactly on the right side of the law, tries to maintain a low profile and at the same time continue his illegal activities, though often more for the fun of it than out of serious malevolence. I don't think he's older than 17, and he veers from childish riot to attempts of passing as a tough guy, his younger friend being his audience and hapless accomplice-cum-victim. The story takes a sharp turn when following a joyride accident his mate's mother, concerned about her son, asks this freelance detective Boon for help. And it leads to uncovering of various secrets, harboured by the people of the village.

"The episode has some soft humour and is entertaining, albeit definitely dated. And since the series is generally treated as feel-good TV, Boon should really refrain from making too many promises in the future."

Conclusion: Interesting rarity, but nothing ground-breaking.

Also, more info about the episode off-site here