I recently watched Scum, a film set in a borstal, the Young Offender Institutions of old. It’s one of those films that is going to stay with me a long, long time. I think this has to be one of the hardest hitting films I have ever seen, and I doubt much will come along and challenge this. There’s no special affects, no glitz, no cheap tricks. What carries it is the script, acting and story. Nothing else is required.
What I love mostly about the film is that there is no music at all (except background TV sounds). So when the end credits roll up in total silence I was swearing words all over the place, my stomach fallen outside of itself, blood drained of my face, hands shaking. That total silence held the tension and kept it there. Even a few hours after I’d watched it I was still feeling the affects.
A particular scene that packed a punch for me was after Davies’ ordeal in the greenhouse and he’s in the dining hall, hands clutched around a mug. His eyes track up to Carlin for a moment, like he’s about to tell him what’s happened. But Carlin gets up, walks away. Davies just sits there and stares. The camera stays with him for quite a time, and he sits and he stares. It packs a punch. There’s so much going on there, even though it’s just about half a minute of Davies staring at the table top.
The next scene is something else. It’s a total antithesis to the previous subtlety and for me it’s that stark difference that makes it work all the more.
Don’t watch this film if you are in any way squeamish, over-sensitive or a young offender on bail and about to be sentenced to a stretch in a YOI.