Starred Up

Beware! Spoiler Alert!
Prison dramas have a strange appeal to me as a viewer. It’s like boxing movies. They’re all alike in a sense so you know what you can expect. But then they have to have a twist to make sure people will come to see it.

I will not go into my soft spot for boxing films (I may save that for later), but concentrate on the prison genre. They have a few things in common. First of all the people depicted are not the average goody two shoe characters. You don’t want them as your neighbours. Second is the limited space and time, that give you a feeling of claustrophobia. And third they mostly are raw and rather violent.

Starred Up is the latest indie sensation movie that came out this year. I saw it at the Rotterdam Film Festival, where it became one of the audience’s favorites. The movie had English subtitles because of the typical prison slang language that was hard to follow. And some words got an extra translation in brackets to make sure the audience would understand.
The story is about a young 18 year old prisoner Eric who got “promoted” to an adult prison because of his violent behaviour. He got “starred up” in prison slang. And in the adult prison he will be reunited with his father who serves a lifetime sentence. He has never been a father for Eric, who is up for another surprise: he finds out that his father is having an intimate relationship with another inmate.
That is not going to change his violent and rebellious attitude. No, he gets into trouble immediately. No one wants to give him a new chance, except a social worker who is from a totally different social class and is a volunteer. Because of that Eric does not trust him at all and neither does the prison management. So all ingredients are in for a dark black story. And still the movie leaves us with a little piece of hope. I’d say, Go see for yourself if you have the stomach.

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