John Foster (Christopher Dane) is fed up. He’s lost his job, bills are piling up, his partner keeps nagging him. Along with his friend and fellow couch potato Chris (Lee Boardman) he decides to put some silly things on “an online auction site” (*cough* eBay) including soiled underwear and himself. A regional news crew catches up with him one morning as the auction is drawing to a close and then follow him in real time as the clock counts down to the end of his selling of himself. He and Chris are bewildered by all of the attention, then seduced by the promise from ambitious reporter Maia (Jessica Blake) of fame and fortune, before things really start to get out of hand with locals and international news hotshots gathering outside his house, all keen to see what will happen. How much is a human life worth? – we are repeatedly asked to consider.


The publicity material for this interesting but flawed British film makes a great deal of fuss over its many limitations. Shot in two days, on a budget of £20,000.00, due to be released on DVD and online download, all of which is very commendable. So commendable that it seems incredibly and unkindly churlish to find fault with the end product. A few recognisable faces from British TV have been roped in (actors such as Lesley Joseph and Eva Pope, presenters and game show hosts like Terry Christian, Roy Walker and Gordon Burns) and everyone concerned seems to have thrown themselves into the experiment with laudable enthusiasm. Roy Walker even throws in his best lines from Catchphrase (“say what you see”, “it’s good but it’s not right”), cast bizarrely as a psychology professor from the University of Manchester.

Like so many flawed but interesting projects, it has a strong idea at its core – a man sells himself on eBay (never mentioned by name, but clearly intended) and in the process discovers the truth about the venality, selfishness and superficiality of those around him – but doesn’t really know what to do with it. The issues that are supposed to be alluded to – human trafficking – are never drilled down into, instead it is left to the closing credits to flash up screens showing people trying to sell their children or elderly relatives or virginity. These important issues deserve to have attention drawn to them, but the film simply does not do that, even if it meant to. There is one scene where John ventures into his front garden for a rant about the meaningless of all of this, that he will soon be forgotten and that none of them really care, but it doesn’t lead anywhere. He goes back into the house and nothing comes of it. No-one has any sort of epiphany, none of the characters offer a voice of reason or contrast, nothing much happens.

Some dramatic tension is generated by the ticking clock element of the end of the auction and the corresponding real time format of the film. John has entered a reserve price that becomes crucial towards the end, but by then the film has run out of ideas and does not know where to go. Unlike similarly themed films such as EdTV and The Truman Show, Being Sold lacks a clear idea of the point it is trying to make and is unable to develop its core premise in interesting or novel ways. The pacing is fine (a slightly abrupt finish brings it in at 1h15m) and although most of the acting performances are pretty ropey, with such an absurdly low budget the director (Phil Hawkins) should be praised for getting the cast he did. I’ve certainly see worse.

I genuinely dislike being critical, but similarly I hate seeing a good idea go to waste on account of poor writing, acting and story development. Hopefully the film will meet with enough success to cover its costs, but it is difficult to imagine it being a runaway success. If you fancy checking it out (and I’m not going to recommend that you do), you can order the DVD or download the film and watch a documentary about the making of the film here.


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Dave has been writing for HeyUGuys since mid-2010 and has found them to be the most intelligent, friendly, erudite and insightful bunch of film fans you could hope to work with. He's gone from ham-fisted attempts at writing the news to interviewing Lawrence Bender, Renny Harlin and Julian Glover, to writing articles about things he loves that people have actually read. He has fairly broad tastes as far as films are concerned, though given the choice he's likely to go for Con Air over Battleship Potemkin most days. He's pretty sure that 2001: A Space Odyssey is the most overrated mess in cinematic history.