EIFF 2015 – Len and Company
Tim Godsall’s Len and Company casts Rhys Ifans as an ageing disgruntled punk rocker who puts himself into seclusion to get away from it all.
Are there any happy ageing punk rockers in fiction? I seriously can’t think of any. Going in I wasn’t sure if this film would manage to distinguish itself with such a well worn character type being the central focus but I found that the whole thing worked for the most part.
Rhys Ifans is great as Len. He comes across as moody and distant but there’s a compassionate side to him that bubbles just beneath the surface. It’s evident from the fact that he lets his son Max (Jack Kilmer) stay with him despite not having a close relationship with him. Of course he doesn’t make any effort to get to know his son initially but the fact that he is welcomed into his home without hesitation says a lot about him.
Ifans always feels genuine in the role. His bitterness never feels forced and he is believable as an aging punk rock star. His casual swearing and bizarre rants about how he feels the world should work are always entertaining. There’s a great scene where he delivers a hilarious monologue to a room full of bewildered school children. He holds nothing back and seeing the reaction of the teacher as well as the kids is absolutely priceless.
I like the way that the film establishes how stuck in the past Len is but not to the point where he shuns modernity completely. He spends much of his time watching episodes of The Sweeney and Blackadder but he does so using a DVD player and flat screen TV. I liked the contrast between old and new in his viewing habits as it would have been so easy to make him so old fashioned that he watches VHS on an old CRT TV. Basically he understands the modern world and actively avoids parts of it.
His relationship with Max is an interesting one. Max is a child that he never really wanted but feels responsible for anyway. It’s established that Max lives a very comfortable life due to the wealth that success has brought Len. He may have been absent as a father figure but his son never wanted for anything and has a really easy life financially. There’s a certain difficulty to their interactions that comes from not spending much time together. Both Max and Len struggle to find things to say to one another but there are scenes where there’s a lot to talk about when they hit upon some rare common ground. Their relationship feels real and it’s interesting to see it unfold over the course of the film.
It was a nice touch that the relationship never actually evolves in any meaningful way. By the end of the film they are starting to grow a little closer but there’s no cheesy turning point that sees them suddenly find that eternal common ground. Again, the dynamic is much more real than that.
Len’s hidden kind nature is also shown through his interactions with the young William (Keir Gilchrist). He employs William to look after his house and do various chores due to apathy on his part. Throughout the course of the film it is made clear that he actually cares about William and really wants to make sure that he will be fine. He agrees to appear at his school to give a talk from the perspective of a successfully employed adult and gives him some worthwhile life advice at some points.
Another part of Len’s character is shown using the pop princess Zoe (Juno Temple). Len worked as the producer who got her career from the beginning to the present day but in many ways she represents everything that he hates about music. She’s a manufactured pop star in the sense of what she releases but the film shows that she has some real talent underneath that she never really gets to showcase. Len abandons her at an award ceremony after realising what his life has become and her career is the catalyst for his self imposted isolation.
Beyond that, Zoe is a messed up individual who has fallen into many of the traps that come with fame. She recreationally uses drugs and is often in the news for some scandal or another. Having her life be like that is something that Len can’t help but feel responsible for.
Keeping the narrative focused on his interactions with relatively few people works really well. The film plays out as something of a character study rather than having a standard plot structure which works due to how the character is established and explored. It’s impressive how layered the character feels through the exploration of all of these relationships.
There are some superfluous elements that crop up from time to time such as a stalker subplot that puts Zoe in danger. This comes out of nowhere and doesn’t really fit. It’s almost as if it comes from a completely different film. I felt that it only really existed to add some artificial drama into the narrative but I was completely on board with the exploration of Len as a character so it definitely wasn’t needed.
I’d definitely recommend this one as it’s an intriguing character study of a layered character. The acting and writing make this a near complete package and it’s consistently entertaining. Check it out if you ever get the chance.
An intriguing character study with an excellent performance from Rhys Ifans as the titular character.
There’s a certain authenticity to Rhys Ifans’ performance that makes him entirely believable as a self loathing aging punk rocker turned producer who is a little disillusioned with the world around him.
The film adds layers to the character by showing how he relates to several key characters. He’s not a 1 dimensional stroppy punk rocker as he shows sign of compassion and is definitely a kind hearted guy who tries his best to hide it. He’s just more than a little fed up with the world and his role in it so needs to get away from it all.
I loved how real the relationship between Len and his son Max felt. There was a constant sense of awkwardness as they struggled to find something to talk about but there were moments where they really seemed to be bonding. It’s a very believable estranged relationship that comes across really well.
His relationship with pop princess Zoe is another interesting one. Len feels entirely responsible for the way she has turned out due to him being the driving force behind her entire career. The fact that she uses drugs recreationally and is often involved in various scandals also feels like his fault.
Despite some superfluous elements towards the end this film really works as a strong character study. Ifans’ performance coupled with some sharp writing make this fascinating to watch and Len is entirely believable as a character. Definitely check this one out.