Endings are funny things, only coming into real focus in hindsight. Do you ever really know you’re living through the ending of something while it’s happening, or is it only in retrospect that endings reveal themselves? And if you knew how things would end, would you choose to begin them in the first place?
Subverting cinematic convention, it’s endings which Mercedes Grower’s debut feature “Brakes” is most interested in, bringing us the poignant, the acrimonious and sometimes the cathartic denouements of an array of couples’ lives before breathing sentimental life into the ashes of the relationships by flashing back to the various meet-cutes which brought them together in the first place.
From marital ennui, through drunken one-night stands and experimental hook-ups, to substance abuse and opportunistic power plays, the film explores many of the interpersonal dynamics which can bring a couple together and drive them apart.
Grower’s microbudget-enforced guerrilla filmmaking style is knowingly noticeable but doesn’t compromise the finished product and what it appears to lack in technical polish it makes up for in heart and authenticity. There’s quite the cast to bring the writer/ director’s characters to life too, including Mighty Boosh duo Noel Fielding and Julian Barrett, Paul McGann (“Doctor Who”), Julia Davis (“Gavin And Stacey”, “Hunderby”), Roland Gift of The Fine Young Cannibals and Oliver Maltman (“Maleficent”) and they each bring their own unique spin to the stories on offer.
Despite its melancholy focus, the film achieves a more bittersweet, wistful tone and has a lot to say about how and why relationships founder. Transcending its limitations and even at times using the rawness of the visuals as an advantage, the darkly funny and very human “Brakes” is a multilayered, intriguing and confident debut feature.