A Fresh, Intensely Sensitive Look at Refugees and the Impact
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 01/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"GYPO (the word is prejudiced slang for 'gypsy', those Eastern European immigrants settling in England) is a Dogma 95 production that works on every level. This film tells a story from three vantages of how a young girl from the Czech Republic impacts a dysfunctional working class family in England. The story is simple on the surface, intricately complex in the meaning, and extraordinarily well presented by a small independent group of dedicated artists.
A word about Dogma 95 films: originally formed by four Danish directors in 1995 with the premise of 'purifying filmmaking by refusing expensive and spectacular special effects, post production modification and other gimmicks to focus on the actual story and on actors' performances', there have been to date 84 Dogma films, the most celebrated being the Danish FESTEN (The Celebration). A Dogma film must be, among other things, filmed in color on location without extraneous light using a hand held camera without optical filters, have no music added postproduction, and the director must not be credited! GYPO fulfills all of these restrictions and despite the fact that this title page on Amazon names the 'director' as Jan Dunn, she is actually the writer and facilitator of the film.
The setting is England in contemporary times, the film is divided into three sections each of which tells the same story but from three different character's vantage. In HELEN we meet a family: the mother Helen (Pauline McLynn) is a somewhat hyper and distracted 'early grandmother' as her self-centered daughter Kelly (Tamzin Dunstone) has left her 'unwanted brat' infant in Helen's care despite the fact that Helen works nights in a supermarket and has one evening of freedom when she attends an art class; the father Paul (Paul McGann) who wades through the angst of life, not caring for his wife, hating immigrants who are flooding the island of England stealing jobs, and visiting prostitutes on the little money he makes laying carpets; wildly uncontrollable and angry daughter Kelly (Tamzin Dunstone) who is still without work to support her child and family; and son Darren (Tom Stuart) who looks on as his family is in shambles. Kelly brings home a friend Tasha (Chloe Sirene), an attractive sweet girl who has immigrated with her mother Irina (Rula Lenska) from the Czech Republic to escape the brutality of their husbands. Kelly gives Helen attention and kindness while enduring the brutal prejudices of Paul: her impact on the household is palpable. Helen's responses to her sad living situation is seen in a confrontation with Paul, told as she sees it.
In the second stage, PAUL, we see the same story from Paul's eyes - how he hates foreigners yet hires a street laborer from Iraq to help him lay carpet, paying but a pittance, and spending his time away from home mooching drinks and hiring prostitutes. The strain between Paul and Helen at home is explained in his thoughts and actions.
In the third vignette TASHA we learn more about Tasha's sad life, living with her mother in a trailer house with locked doors, fearful of their husbands' arriving to take them back to the Czech Republic, and basing all of their hopes on receiving passports making them British citizens. In this version we see Tasha's love for Helen physically revealed and how this intensely close bonding affects the near tragic results of Tasha's and Irina's lives. The ending is one of the most inspirational moments of revealing self-sacrifice and the human indomitable spirit on film.
Although the film is apparently unscripted (the writer sets the scene story and the actors spontaneously come up with the dialogue), the story (and obvious direction!) by Jan Dunn is phenomenally powerful in its apparent simplicity. The entire cast is superb, with special mention due Pauline McLynn, Chloe Sirene, Paul McGann, and Rula Lenska. The remainder of the cast, composed of both trained actors and untrained locals, give compelling performances. But the power of this film is the method in which the problem of immigration issues bring into focus prejudicial abuse and cruelly labeling people as types from strange places rather than accepting them as individuals with human souls. The film leaves the viewer breathless: it is just that powerful. For this viewer it is one of the finer films of recent years. Grady Harp, January 07"