It is hard to believe that it was back in 2006 that James McAvoy won the BAFTA Rising Star Award. Since then he seems to have gone from strength to strength.
Adapted from the controversial novel by Irvine Welsh, McAvoy plays DS Bruce Robertson, a corrupt member of the Lothian Constabulary who is in line for promotion. He will attempt this by any means necessary. However, his life is dominated by casual sex, cocaine and heavy drinking. His addictions eventually get the better of him and he starts to have a mental breakdown.
McAvoy is the best thing about the film. His performance is the finest of his career. His opening monologue is what stands out for me, featuring him walking down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile from the castle. He plays a character that is so unlikable; he turns his co-workers against each other. He especially attempts to undermine Ray Lennox (Jaime Bell); he evens attempts to frame his “best friend” for his own crime. He is racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynistic and sectarian. He is very good though at making himself look the dominant figure, which is why he is pretty much always on screen. You cannot help but want to be around him early on in the film, even though you definitely will not share his opinions.
Ultimately, the best adaptation of an Irvine Welsh novel will always be Trainspotting. He is not the world’s most cinematic writer, as shown with previous attempts such as Acid House and Ecstasy. This is an ambitious attempt at a difficult novel, which, let us not forget, features a talking tape worm. Instead what you get are fantasy sequences with Jim Broadbent doing a voice that you will easily end up impersonating afterwards. It does feature gallows humour, which ranges from crude comments and puerile fart gags to the sordid Christmas party scene and Bruce’s brief interlude in Hamburg.
If you were to compare Filth to Trainspotting, I will just say this. Whereas both are about addiction and the squalid nature of humanity, Trainspotting has the scene where Renton dives into the toilet which then turns into an epiphany almost. By contrast, Filth wants to shove your head down the toilet and keep it there. Some people have said it is a hard movie to like and there is not the same affection as there is for the characters in Trainspotting.
It is ironic that this was released in cinemas on the same day as Sunshine on Leith, two very different films both set in Edinburgh. Watch both of them as a double-bill. However, you may find Filth a tough watch, but there is much to like about it as well. It is bold and challenging, the kind of film we wish to see more of in cinema. It is James McAvoy’s film…