Though following a somewhat archetypal narrative arc, of a blossoming friendship between two contrasting personalities, Jules Bishop’s directorial debut Borrowed Time manages to avoid cliché and stereotype, in what proves to be a sweet and original drama. Leaving you smiling long after the credits roll, this charming picture manages to make light of severe themes, creating an amiable atmosphere amidst the dark, naturalistic occurrences – where British cinema so often excels.
Theo Barklem-Biggs plays Kevin, a hapless juvenile with no hope for the future, settling on a job selling drugs to make ends meet. However when his first deal goes wrong, his new ‘boss’ Nigel (Warren Brown) gives him just a mere matter of days to return the money to him. To avoid the violent repercussions, Kevin decides to rob elderly pensioner Philip’s (Phil Davis) house to make up some of the money owed – however he lands himself in trouble when caught in the act. Despite the hostile circumstances, the two then proceed to find some common ground, discovering the good in life and learning from the other’s mistakes – as the unlikeliest of bonds is formed.
In what is a strange mix between realism and surrealism – this bittersweet comedy works well, picking up on the small subtleties and nuances of everyday life, while at other points we see a heightened reality, where everything is overstated for dramatic effect. That said, much of the comedy does fall flat, feeling superfluous at the best of times. There is no denying Borrowed Time is a charming piece of cinema, and there is room for comedy that derives naturally from the moments shared amongst characters, however it’s the more obvious, contrived one-liners that feel out of place. The “Make my tea, punk” line is special, mind you.
The comedic approach works well in regards to the films’ antagonist however, as we never truly fear the threat that Nigel poses to Kevin. It’s essential this be the case, as it ensures that the cat and mouse chase is a mere backdrop and not the main emphasis, never imposing too greatly on the relationship between Kevin and Philip, which is the emotional core of this story. Had Nigel been a more intimidating villain, it would have taken up too much of the viewers’ attention. Meanwhile, Barklem-Briggs is great as our lead, and even in his very brief cameo in The Inbetweeners Movie, we can see that beneath the comedic presence, is a fragile and somewhat tragic character. He’s very endearing too, and much credit must go to the actor in this instance, for making a little brat like Kevin rather likeable.
Davis is also magnificent, as he remains as subtle as always, even when playing such an eccentric, outlandish old man. He embodies the pensioner wonderfully too, physically spot on in his approach. It’s fortunate that the lead performances are so strong, as the film lives or dies off the back of them. In fairness, credit must go to Bishop, as these are two very well crafted characters, complete with memorable, quirky personality traits. In the meantime, there are a couple of questionable accents on show from supporting characters, but hey, we can let it off for only being a low-budget flick (but seriously, they are pretty bad).
There’s a poignant meaning behind Borrowed Time, as we focus in on two men written off by society, and continuously reminded that they aren’t capable of anything worthwhile – yet it’s increasingly apparent that just a little bit of faith could amend that notion. That’s what brilliant about this story – that of two characters believing in the other, despite no-one else bothering to. Complete with a brooding, gentle score that compliments the picture well – Bishop is a director to keep an eye out on for sure, as we look forward to see what he does next.