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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Happy New Year, Colin Burstead (MA) - 95 minutes

Updated: Mar 15, 2020

Talk about a dysfunctional extended family.

Colin Burstead (Neil Maskell) most certainly has one and then some.

So, why would he arrange to celebrate New Year’s Eve at a posh country heritage mansion with his, along with various hangers on, hours away from home? What was he thinking?

You see, that gathering becomes a hotbed of discontent and the sole focus of Happy New Year, Colin Burstead.

Burstead arrives with his wife Val (Sura Dohnke), 15-year-old daughter Fran (Nicole Netlleingham) and infant son, Jamie, in tow.

The first piece of drama – hardly all that dramatic, but played upon – is that Colin's mother Sandy (Doon Mackichan), the family's matriarch, injures her ankle upon entering the front door. Hold the front page!

Her husband Gordon (Bill Paterson) doesn’t do well with money. In fact, he is in desperate straits, so he turns to Colin – with whom he has a cold relationship. Surprise, surprise, Colin turns him down, saying it is the best thing he can do for him.

Cross dressing Uncle Bertie (Charles Dance) is secretly ill and knows this might be his last time seeing the clan together, so he prepares a speech/toast.

Meanwhile, self-deceiving Sham (Asim Chaudhry), the son of Sandy's best friends Maya (Sudha Bhuchar) and Nikhil (Vincent Ebrahim), has gate-crashed the party.

He hopes to win back his ex-girlfriend Lainey (Sinead Matthews), who is responsible for the catering at the do, it being her first catering gig.

But all these tensions and dramas are overshadowed by the return of Colin's handsome, black sheep of a brother, David (Sam Riley).

He hasn’t seen his family in five years after dumping his wife and children, then aged seven and five.

Now he emerges with his attractive German girlfriend Hannah (Alexandra Maria Lara), as if his invitation from Colin’s sister Gini (Hayley Squires) was fitting in the first place.

Gini’s husband Warren (Mark Monero) didn’t think so and David’s ex-wife Paula (Sarah Baxendale) – who is also present and who had no foreknowledge that David was coming – is understandably beside herself.

Gini’s intent was for David’s arrival to be a pleasant surprise for her mother, Sandy.

As for the Earl who runs the luxury estate where all this unpleasantness unfolds, he is all at sea and timid as a mouse to boot. What a pussy.

Many of the interactions in Happy New Year, Colin Burstead are toxic.

What takes place is hardly all that exciting and it takes a considerable time to piece together just what is happening as the assembled crowd dance around one another.

In other words, they know what is going on, but we – the audience – do not, nor are we aware where each person fits into the bigger picture until that is gradually revealed in the film.

Of course, that is what filmmaker Ben Wheatley – who has written, directed and edited the movie – wanted, only he takes his sweet time to get there.

I can’t say I really warmed to Happy New Year, Colin Burstead until the final act, when everything came to a head.

Then, and only then, did I become more invested in what I was seeing.

Until that point, the whole thing was a bit of a dirge.

Mind you, I quite liked the performances, led by Maskell as the harried Colin.

It is pitched as a fly on the wall-style of filmmaking and in that regard it works.

There is a naturalness about the way the actors go about their angst … and the credits inform us that the script had input from the performers.

Mind you, I can’t say what is revealed is all that appealing.

If you really want titillation, you’d be better off watching a dinner party on the megahit tabloid television show Married At First Sight.

In short, the whole point of Happy New Year, Colin Burstead was to shine a light on the love/hate relationship between a family and friends.

What appears on the big screen is hardly enough to generate a great deal of enthusiasm.

Rated MA, it scores a 6 out of 10.


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