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This Is Not A Love Song (2002)

Courtesy of Soda Pictures Ltd

Main image of This Is Not A Love Song (2002)
DV, colour, 91 mins
DirectorBille Eltringham
Production CompaniesFootprint Films, UK Film Council
ProducerMark Blaney
Written bySimon Beaufoy
PhotographyRobbie Ryan
MusicAdrian Johnston

Cast: Michael Colgan (Spike); Kenny Glenaan (Heaton); David Bradley (Mr Bellamy); John Henshaw (Arthur); Adam Pepper (William); Keri Arnold (Gerry)

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Two friends, an ex-soldier and an ex-convict, find themselves on the run across the Scottish moors pursued by an armed vigilante mob after a tragic but fatal accident.

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Stylishly shot by director Bille Eltringham in just twelve days, This is Not a Love Song is a bleak and pessimistic thriller about two men on the run from a vigilante mob, owing much to John Boorman's Deliverance (US, 1972) and Walter Hill's Southern Comfort (US, 1981) in its study of people thrust into an unexpectedly hostile environment within a supposedly familiar country. Here, it's the pylon-strewn moorland outside a city (both unnamed, though the film was shot in and around Glasgow), the latter being a destination that remains tantalisingly out of reach.

The film takes its title from a song by post-punk band Public Image Ltd, though its theme was more directly inspired by the case of farmer Tony Martin, who shot and killed a would-be burglar, his subsequent prison sentence for murder elevating him to martyr status in the eyes of many. Simon Beaufoy's script sets up a similar scenario, but from the point of view of the intruders, something almost entirely ignored by the coverage of the Martin case.

Though the central duo are scarcely angels (Spike is fresh out of prison prison, and Heaton has stolen a car to celebrate his freedom), a court would certainly have established mitigating circumstances over the tragic accident that kick-starts the main narrative. However, the explicitly Old Testament views of self-styled vigilante leader Bellamy (David Bradley) ensure that they stand no chance of receiving a sympathetic hearing from their pursuers.

The complexity of Michael Colgan and Kenny Glenaan's performances as Spike and Heaton gives the film far more depth than a simple plot summary might imply. As the title suggests, though they aren't lovers or even apparently gay, there's a closeness between them (or, more precisely, displayed by Heaton towards the younger Spike) that goes well beyond camaraderie in the face of peril.

Regardless of its artistic merit, This Is Not A Love Song has a permanent place in British film history thanks to its innovative distribution. Between 5 and 19 September 2003, alongside a conventional theatrical release, it was simultaneously made available for paid digital download over home broadband networks. Around 100,000 people took up the latter option, and while much of this figure can be explained by interest in the medium rather than the message, this was nonetheless a much bigger audience than a low-budget film of this type would normally be expected to get.

Michael Brooke

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Video Clips
1. Central Heaton (2:08)
2. The accident (2:28)
3. A bad trip (3:46)
4. Police don't shoot (3:37)
Beaufoy, Simon (1967-)