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Stella Does Tricks (1996)


Main image of Stella Does Tricks (1996)
35mm, 99 min, colour
DirectorCoky Giedroyc
Production CompanyBritish Film Institute
 Channel Four
ProducerAdam Barker
ScreenplayAL Kennedy
CinematographyBarry Ackroyd

Cast: Kelly Macdonald (Stella McGuire); James Bolam (Mr Peters); Hans Matheson (Eddie); Ewan Stewart (Francis McGuire)

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Stella, a teenage Scottish prostitute living in London, tries to escape from her pimp's clutches but finds little happiness.

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Coky Giedroyc's debut feature, Stella Does Tricks (1997) is one of a rash of British films dealing with drugs and social issues following in the wake of Trainspotting (d. Danny Boyle, 1996). The casting of Trainspotting's Kelly Macdonald as teenage prostitute Stella helps cement the reference.

It is on the collision of Stella's dream life with the harsh realities of her material existence that Giedroyc chooses to focus. The 'tricks' that Stella does are both the sordid businessmen to whom her pimp sells her and the magic tricks that help her disappear into dreams of childhood. As life tightens its grip upon Stella, even these dreams are infected. It becomes apparent that the loving comedian father of the early sequences was simply the first in a long line of men who have abused her. The slippage between fact and fantasy frustrates the audience's reading of scenes where Stella returns to her Glasgow roots to enact childish revenge fantasies against the father and aunt who raised her.

We first see Stella buying ice creams with her hair in bunches, wearing long socks and carrying a child's rucksack. She is presented as an infantilised figure, reflecting both her actual youth and the sexual preferences of her pimp, Mr Peters, who demands her services while he holds her ice-cream.

The actors don't always carry the weight of the film, and exchanges between Stella and her junkie boyfriend Eddie (Hans Matheson) are overly theatrical. But James Bolam delivers a striking performance as Peters, the soft-spoken manipulator who subjects Stella to an organised gang rape as a farewell present and rejoices in sinister lines like "since when did you have a say in how you're treated?"

Giedroyc went on to make Women Talking Dirty (1999), and her previous credits include the short film, The Future Lasts a Long Time (1996), also funded by the BFI Production Board.

Jonny Bugg

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Video Clips
1. Café stories (2:51)
2. Run! (4:51)
3. Swimming pool (1:27)
4. Interval (2:45)
Original Poster
Production stills
Sex Traffic (2004)
Ackroyd, Barry (1954-)
Bolam, James (1938-)
Macdonald, Kelly (1976-)
Serkis, Andy (1964-)
Channel 4 and Film
Female Protagonists