Peccadillo Pictures, UK (2011)
David Hoyle’s new film, Uncle David, aims to shock with its taboo subject matter, but it’s the sheer inelegance with which it handles its story that is truly offensive. Set entirely on a caravan park on the bleakly beautiful Isle of Sheppey, Uncle David is more no-budget than low-budget. What the film lacks in finances however, it also lacks in plot, acting talent and finesse; playing out like the very worst attempt of a first-year film student.
The ‘plot’ (and the term should be used very loosely) is centred around the intimate relationship between Hoyle’s title character and his mentally impaired nephew Ashley, played by pornstar Ashley Ryder. There’s no real journey to be found here as the characters meander aimlessly through their daily routine with very obviously improvised dialogue. Some of the haunting ponderings on offer include, ‘why do your trainers make a funny noise?’, ‘There must be an air-hole in it’ and ‘bring Teddy… we can have a threesome!’ As the film reveals its denouement 20 minutes in, we feel every moment of Ashley’s suffering; wishing that not just he, but we too could escape the pretentious inanities of Hoyle’s monologues.
The closest Ryder comes to an engaging onscreen presence is a disarmingly close shot of the actor’s bare arse. Even without having seen his previous work, it is safe to say that he shouldn’t quit his porn day job any time soon. Nothing eloquent ever falls from Ryder’s mouth, so we are instead treated to extended, gratuitous nude scenes as compensation. Hoyle’s character is a marriage of wannabe Holden Caufield-style outsider and mincing paedophile. While the scenes of sexual abuse in say, Greg Arakii’s Mysterious Skin were shocking due to the beauty with which they were presented, it’s the desperate ham-fisted pursuit of controversy that offends here.
The film’s claim to be a ‘black comedy’ is a questionable one. Neither startling nor intentionally funny, Uncle David is the most vapid, transparent attempt at shock this side of a Lady Gaga performance. Hoyle says that the making of the film was a type of catharsis for him, but after sitting through a production as woeful as this you too may need emotional cleansing.