It seems that every year at the London Film Festival, we seem to be treated to a bleak, naturalistic drama about a young boy falling into a life of crime, as watch on helplessly as they become so heavily involved in a series of reprehensible actions. My Brother the Devil and Sixteen spring to mind, and now comes Duane Hopkins’s sophomore endeavour Bypass – though his inclination to be artistic and creative, while admirable, does little but ensure this production revels far more in the style, and not quite so much in the substance.

We cast a light on the livelihood of Tim (George McKay), who becomes his younger sister Helen’s (Lara Peake) sole benefactor, following the death of his mother, and older brother Greg’s (Benjamin Dilloway) imprisonment. Struggling to keep a roof over their head, with every pounding on the front door from the bailiff another reminder of their pitiful, desolate situation – Tim turns to crime, where he spirals deeper down, matched only by the deteriorating of his health, with his despondent girlfriend Lilly (Charlotte Spencer) watching on.

Though filmmakers deserve criticism when sticking so closely to formula and not attempting to be unique or ingenious – sometimes it can work the other way, which is the case for Hopkins with Bypass, with a contrived stylistic fervour, trying too hard to be transcendent, seemingly unsure of when to reign it in. Fortunately, however, he is saved by a remarkable turn from McKay, who following on from performances in the likes of Pride and For Those in Peril, turns in arguably his finest yet. He’s blessed with a well-crafted character, and we get a sense for his distinct desperation, allowing us to empathise with his plight at all times, despite his flaws and imperfections.

Bypass does grow somewhat tedious in its bleakness however, as everything that could possibly go wrong, does go wrong and we lose touch of the film’s realism as a result. It also makes us immune to the series of unfortunate events, and as such we become emotionally disengaged from proceedings, as we’re almost overwhelmed by its bleakness so much so that we stop caring. However in spite of the issues that do remain, Hopkins has certainly proved himself to be a director to look out for, as whether you adhere to Bypass or not, it’s hard not to admire his imaginative approach to filmmaking.