“Starred Up” is British slang for prematurely bringing a young offender from juvenile detention to the harsh world of adult prisons, a practice with potentially dire consequences as depicted in Scottish director David Mackenzie’s raw and caustic film. Up-and-coming British actor Jack O’Connell stars as the uncontrollably violent Eric, a 19-year-old newly transferred to a prison inhabited by his estranged and volatile father (Ben Mendelsohn) and a volunteer prison therapist (Rupert Friend) who desperately wants to save him. Shot in sequence in what was recently a functioning prison, Starred Up pushes the envelope of authenticity down to the screenplay's reliance on obscure prison slang. The actors’ thick cockney accents don’t help matters — subtitles wouldn’t have been a bad idea — but the film gradually develops into something special: a prison film with three-dimensional characters, and even a faint glimmer of hope.
Starred Up begins an exclusive run tonight, Sept. 26, at Zeitgeist Films. More info here.