"Mercedes Grower effectively uses London as a match-maker back-drop, while each unique story echoes a scenario we have either heard about or experienced for ourselves"
Brakes shot on a miniature budget is the directorial debut of actress Mercedes Grower. An improvised comedy filmed over a period of four years, which dabbles in the theme of falling in and out of love. Made up of nine London couples, whose break-ups are analysed, as is how they first came to meet.
I think it's fair to say the known names in the film, from TV and independent film, had not seen the improvised sketches of their co-stars beforehand. This helped to create a heightened realistic fluidity.
Brakes is made up of two comedic segments, used in the first instance to unravel the characters of Elliot (Julian Barratt) and Ray (Oliver Maltman), and then later, Livy (Julia Davis) and Alan (Peter Wight). The first sequence sees actor Ray being tracked down by his Barcelona drunken one-night-stand at The National Theatre. Elements feel as if they have been solely left in so as not to upset the contributors, who most likely gave up their time for free. The uncomfortable goodbyes around the half-way mark start to be overused. Therefore, the switch to how the couples came to meet comes with some relief.
Elliot and Ray, for example, are portrayed the morning after, at which point structurally the film pays more considerate attention to dividends. And The Buzzcocks’ 1978 hit “What Do I Get?” – “I just want a lover like any other/ What do I get?” serves as a fitting choice for the closing-credits finale. Although the content of the film doesn’t really reveal anything new about modern love, it does prove to be quite the sugar-sweet watch.
The improvisational approach of the film means it carries a tonal variation. And the character of Livy, an Actress, who’s played by Julia Davis of Gavin and Stacey fame, raises the level of humour to a new level, as her ambitions far outweigh her talent.
There’s an interesting twist when the worlds of Kate (Siobhan Hewlett), a fashion designer and Johnny (John Milroy), a builder collide, knocking back their bevvies in a hip pub in NW5. Mercedes Grower effectively uses London as a match-maker back-drop, while each unique story echoes a scenario we have either heard about or experienced for ourselves.
Brakes received a Special Jury Mention for the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film at the Edinburgh Film Festival 2016 and has been appreciated by many a festival audience member thereafter, including at the LOCO London Comedy Film Festival and the inaugural ‘Cineramageddon’ event, curated by Julien Temple, at this year’s Glastonbury Festival.