EIFF 2012: Unconditional
On a Newcastle council estate, 17-year-old twins Owen (McEntire) and Kristen (Clark) are full-time carers for their infirm mother. With a lack of money and seemingly no social life, the arrival of good-looking loan officer Liam (facilitating a potential cash injection for the kids) sparks a keen interest from both brother and sister. Owen is invited for a night on the town; later, while drunk and in the spirit of “having a laugh”, Liam proposes that the young boy dress in full female drag. Oh, and for some reason he has the requisite makeup, dress and wig already in his flat. There is a clear sense of grooming afoot, but a rather more unpredictable relationship develops – tender, confused, dangerous.
Veering away from sensationalism or trite conclusions, the smart script feels genuine and bold. Christian Cooke gives a textured performance as Liam; a charismatic, chain-smoking and booze-ridden laddish exterior masking a mean delusional streak and a severe emotional fragility. Equally nuanced is McEntire in a difficult role that conveys an impressionability and insecurity, slowly morphing into self-belief – like the film, his performance is fresh and true. [Nicholas Green]