With Pure, Gillies MacKinnon makes a welcome return to the themes and styles of his earlier films, Small Faces and The Grass Arena, with this hard-edged exploration of a ten year old boy’s extraordinary struggle to save his mother from a destructive drug addiction. What makes the film so powerful is that the main story is told through the eyes of the boy, Paul – a standout performance from newcomer Harry Eden – who displays a mixture of vulnerability and innocence with a maturity beyond his tender years.
We experience the harsh realities he is forced to encounter as he attempts to keep his family together at all costs. Growing up in the shadow of West Ham’s football stadium at Upton Park, ten year old Paul (Harry Eden) is experienced beyond his years, having taken on the role of caretaker to mother Mel (Molly Parker) and younger brother Lee following the sudden death of his father. With heroic optimism, Paul takes drastic steps to rescue his mother from addiction. The ending is left uncertain, as Mel finally hits rock bottom and miraculously is able to summon up her strength in an attempt to save herself and her family.
A journalist by training, Alison Hume was inspired to write Pure after reading a newspaper article about a charity that was writing a booklet to help children with parents suffering drug addiction. Although most of her research was conducted from her home in Leeds, Hume chose to set the story in West Ham, because she wanted to bring the story closer to her own experiences as a child, watching West Ham play at Upton Park. Gillies MacKinnon was immediately attracted to the story about a young boy and his mother, ‘I guess mother and child, child and family is a theme that has always interested me. And the idea that the story was told through the eyes of a ten year old boy presented a unique way of telling the story.’
MacKinnon’s rock steady direction is matched by Alison Hume’s perfectly-scaled screenplay and features moving central performances from the film’s rising star Molly Parker (Kissed) and young newcomer Harry Eden (currently filming a Hollywood remake of Peter Pan in Australia) as well as strong support from Keira Knightley (Bend It Like Beckham), David Wenham (Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers), Geraldine McEwan (The Magdalene Sisters) and Gary Lewis (Billy Elliot). PURE is a poignant story that highlights the profound love and commitment between mother and child and has already been very well received in screenings at Toronto, London and Berlin, where it screened in the Panorama section. –Artificial Eye
Eden's performance is absolutely beautiful, but Pure rarely rises above a made-for-tv quality. The biggest problem is the horrendous score. Every sentimental scene is punctuated by mawkish guitars; every scene in which Paul frantically runs or cycles is accompanied by a d&b loop, and whenever the cop turns up we're subjected to whispering voices as if the set was plagued by ghosts. Stunning opening scene. 2.5 stars