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You, Me and Marley (1992)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of You, Me and Marley (1992)
For Screenplay, BBC, tx. 30/9/1992
84 min, colour
DirectorRichard Spence
ProducerChris Parr
ScriptGraham Reid
PhotographyGraham Veevers

Cast: Marc O'Shea (Sean); Bronagh Gallagher (Frances); Michael Liebmann (Marley); Emma Moylan (Hugh); Marie Jones (Mary); Catherine Brennan (Sarah)

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Young joyriders Sean, Frances and Marley steal cars and stage races and driving displays, causing mayhem in the streets of Republican West Belfast. They fall foul of both the RUC and the IRA, who resolve to stop them.

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Graham Reid's tough and moving drama uses two events snatched from the headlines as a way of examining tensions in Northern Ireland society in the early 1990s. Some teenage joyriders were shot dead by British soldiers in Belfast (and the soldier was later freed). Meanwhile, youths in Britain and Ireland were indulging in the craze of 'twocking' and 'hotting' - stealing cars and staging stunt displays and races in residential areas.

The anti-social nature of the three young protagonists' activities is clear, but they are portrayed with complexity and understanding. In a society regulated on every level, there is a delight in being on nobody's side and taunting any establishment going - giving young people as diverse as the intelligent Frances, the oddball Marley and the tiny, bereaved Sean something to believe in.

Northern Ireland is depicted as a corrupt and profoundly brutalised society that has lost any sort of moral proportion. The RUC are shown as ineffectual and indifferent and quite capable of beating up injured teenagers in petty acts of revenge. Reid's main ire is saved for the IRA however, maintaining his even-handed contempt for all paramilitaries, whether from his own Protestant community, or in this case, among the Republican working-class. The priest's furious speech, telling the IRA that the young criminals were "monsters that they created" is certainly powerful. Even more so is the hypocrisy shown in the IRA men's actions. The most loud-mouthed vigilante at the community meeting is shown profiting from the stolen cars, and Reggie Devine, the urbane, softly spoken IRA leader, cries crocodile tears over what the community is doing to itself before getting boys kneecapped for pouring a bit of paintstripper over his bonnet. Reid doesn't hide behind the platitude that the general population is innocent of all this. Instead they are seen as deeply complicit - demanding effective action and then not wanting to know the brutal realities of vigilante action. Even the local women are actors in the violence, tying Mary to a lamppost with a sign around her neck saying 'I am a Hood' and pouring paint over her.

Reid's skill is in putting believable, morally complex characters into the murky moral landscapes of Northern Ireland. There are no easy solutions proffered, just a heartfelt humanist lament for wasted lives and the culture of recrimination.

Phil Wickham

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Video Clips
1. Winding up the RUC (2:09)
2. Future and present (2:50)
3. Community action (6:09)
4. Punishments (4:17)
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