Filth is a film that will have you in hysterics for the first hour and sobbing your heart out for the last half hour. Based on the novel of the same name by Irvine Welsh (who also wrote the extremely successful Trainspotting), Filth tells the story of Bruce Robertson, a detective sergeant on the hunt for a murderer, whilst also back-stabbing and double-crossing his colleagues and friends as they all vie for a promotion. I didn’t know much about the film before I saw it, and nor did I expect to enjoy it as much as I did, but after seeing it recently I cannot praise it enough. Contains minor spoilers.
Bruce is hugely prejudiced. He’s homophobic, he’s racist, he’s chauvinistic and he doesn’t like disabled people. He’s also an alcoholic, a drug addict and he engages in extreme sexual acts. Essentially Bruce is a character we are meant to hate. But credit is due for film writer Jon S. Baird and to Irvine Welsh as they actually make you, by the end of the film, feel hugely sorry for Bruce and to come to empathise with him when his deep-rooted issues come spilling to the forefront in a visually sickening way. James McAvoy plays him perfectly, making us despise Bruce one minute and feel for him the next. McAvoy has come a long way since his breakout performance in Channel 4’s Shameless, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Along with McAvoy are a host of actors who you’ll recognise instantly. Jamie Bell stars as Bruce’s colleague Ray Lennox, a self-conscious guy who’s ashamed of the size of his penis; Jim Broadbent as Doctor Rossi, a weird creation of Bruce’s mind; Eddie Marsan as Bladesey, Bruce’s best and only friend; and Shirley Henderson as Bunty, Bladesey’s wife who’s getting nuisance phone calls from Bruce himself. The characters are all multi-dimensional and fleshed out throughout the course of the film and you leave it feeling like you know them all, and know where they’re heading in the future.
Bruce plays a number of tricks upon his colleagues to undermine them, from ridiculing the size of Ray’s junk to scrawling “Peter Inglis sucks cock” (or something to that effect) on the toilet wall before heroically defending him in front of his peers which in actual fact makes them wonder whether or not Inglis is in fact gay. They’re all played for the laughs, along with the scenes involving Bladesey and Bruce’s jaunt to Amsterdam where Bruce drugs Bladesey who in turn disco dances with a couple of men. And Bruce and Ray in a brothel securing DNA of their suspects from one of the prostitutes in which Bruce declares “This must be the first time I left a brothel with more spunk than I went in with!”
Like I said in the opening, this hugely contrasts with the bleak final half hour of the film where Bruce’s deep-rooted mental issues manifest themselves hauntingly. Bruce has numerous visions of pigs, sheep and other animals, along with weird imaginary trips to his wacky doctor through the course of the film. It’s clear from the onset that something is seriously wrong with Bruce, but you don’t quite realise what exactly it is until the stunning twist towards the end. You certainly won’t be expecting it if you have no prior knowledge of the novel’s content. I won’t go into too much detail so that I don’t spoil the story, but there is a lot more wrong with Bruce than depression and bipolar, but McAvoy plays these all with gusto. He doesn’t overplay them for the laughs but he plays them realistically and McAvoy’s portrayal is perfect as the deranged copper where the full extent of Bruce’s mental issues are explored fully and a number of issues are highlighted which perhaps may not be in other similar “comedy” films. You will be left wondering whether or not Bruce can make it back from the brink of despair.
Throughout the film Bruce’s relationship with his estranged wife is explored and we see numerous clips of her in various audacious circumstances that you only really come to understand towards the end of the film. Bruce also shows compassion, albeit limited, throughout the film, such as when he tries in vain to save a stranger from dying in the street before his wife. Bruce begins to fall for Joanne Froggatt’s Mary and it’s during these moments that we see Bruce at his most vulnerable self.
Filth is essentially two films in one: the laugh-out-loud first hour which will literally have you in stitches and the despairing second half which will leave you shocked and distressed. It’s well written, acted and directed and seriously I cannot praise it enough.