Young Goob (newcomer Liam Walpole) celebrates his last day of school by dumping the uniform and going for a dip on a balmy summer’s day. However, his short-lived freedom ends when he returns home to his mother’s bleak roadside diner and reality sets in. His young mum Janet (Sienna Guillory) lives with boyfriend Gene Womack (Harris), a violent womaniser and wannabe stock-car racing professional who he detests. A prank involving Womack’s prized banger ends up with Goob’s older brother in hospital, and the kid put to work by Womack guarding the family’s pumpkin farm.
Goob’s insular world is challenged by two outsiders; camp, fun-lover Elliot (Oliver Kennedy) who enrages Womack with his frivolity, and eastern European summer worker Eva (Marama Corlett) who Womack leers at. Both give impressionable Goob a sense of a greater world outside his home county to explore, if only he could be free to do so.
It’s hard to say what Myhill’s goal for film is, apart placing Norfolk centre stage – near Swaffham in the west of the county to be precise. The cinematography by Simon Tindall has a gritty realism to it, much like that in the Andrea Arnold vein, breathing real life into the landscape that’s depicted at all times of day and making it as much a lead character as the others.
There is also a great sense of locality and hidden charm to the area, even with a sad, overwhelming feel of abandonment too, that the area’s glory days are long past, even with a strong agricultural presence attracting migrant workers today. Myhill’s local documentary pedigree is evident, especially the racing scenes that are a throwback to his TV film about the Swaffham Raceway.
The film presents a series of moving picture postcards of the area in fact, not an entirely coherent plot-line, but the combination is still a captivating one all the same. The glue is Goob and the dysfunctional family, a standard cliché, but the strong acting and technical quality balance the film’s lack of character development and directorial vagueness. The latter is perhaps deliberate but with too many subplots not satisfactorily concluded, it seems sloppy rather than purposefully poetic in an indie style.
Harris is typecast again, but being Norfolk-bred, you respect him for committing to the project and lending his trademark screen nastiness. It’s not a taxing role by any account, but Womack’s monstrous personality gets a full, ugly airing, and one that Harris must have relished playing.
Gangly Walpole makes a striking visual presence, producing a susceptible innocence pierced by authentic adolescent rage for a debut performer. A lot of his scenes are highly comparable to other such coming-of-age dramas of past, including the prerequisite motorised escape (moped, car etc). Nevertheless, here is actually a youngster who sticks to his family duty, which is refreshing, rather than scarpering at any thrill-seeking opportunity – either that, or Myhill suggests no-one really ‘escapes’ this scenery.
The Goob is an affecting debut film from Myhill, one fascinating for its rich regional persuasion. It’s also another treat for Sean Harris fans that can’t get enough of the actor’s natural knack for screen callousness. Indeed, Walpole and Kennedy (The Chemist), the other young actor who injects a buzz into the listless environment as Elliot, get to perfect their art in this and present exciting prospects to come. Even former S Club 7 star Hannah Spearritt makes a notable supporting contribution.
What The Goob’s plot needed was less rather than more distracting us from the central family nucleus which is powerful enough. That said there is a certain whimsical yearning for the characters’ undemanding lifestyle, the irony being it’s far from this working on the land. In that sense, Myhill’s proposal may be demonstrating the lure of why Goob stays put, in raising Norfolk’s appeal to the outsider too.