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Movies (GFF 2023): Great Yarmouth - Provisional Figures - Review

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For such a big event that has sent ripples throughout the United Kingdom, it’s surprisingly rare that several years on from the referendum, there have been few films to directly tackle the impact of Brexit head on; and even so fewer British directors have dared cover the topic. Trust the task then, to fall to Marco Martins – who tackles Great Yarmouth: Provisional Figures, with a sense of fury – unable to hold anything back, looking at the impact of Brexit in the hands of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk – where hundreds of Portuguese workers pour into the city - it squarely occupies a space that Ken Loach has tackled in the past with the likes of I, Daniel Blake and Sorry We Missed You, but feels at the same time, decidedly different, benefiting from the perspective of an outsider.

The film feels incredibly dark and bleak, first off the bat: Great Yarmouth is no easy watch. It’s raw, harrowing and paints no easy portrayal through the eyes of Tânia, who’s viewed as the facilitator for the Portuguese workers but dreams of becoming a British citizen in her own right. We see her enviously glance through the window at regular activities like dancing, with a sense of longing betrayed in Beatriz Batarda’s eyes, such a tour de force of a performance that really holds the whole thing together. Pre Brexit, the film feels gloomy, full of loss and determination – language is the community’s main weapon, both their understanding of it and the lack of it – I really liked how the film pictures Tânia’s hopes and dreams of learning English – constantly listening to podcasts, instructions – nothing more than a woman caught between two worlds struggling to hold everything together. It’s an emotional rift in the character when you see what’s inevitably coming happening – and Great Yarmouth: Provisional Figures is capable of breaking your heart in two.

Tânia dreams of a better life – through her we see her marriage to Richard, (Kris Hitchen), a hotel owner who’s clearly not as smart as she is and betrays his idiotic nature at the best of times. There’s tension there – between Richard and her lover; Romeu Runa’s Raúl – painting her intricately complex character nature that gives her the depth afforded to some of the best characters on film: think Mona in Agnès Varda’s Vagabond, or Lynne Ramsay’s Morvern Callar. Its portrayal of human characters put through unimaginable situations betrays Great Yarmouth: Provisional Figures’ strengths – led by the powerful work of João Ribeiro in his role as a Director of Photography.

When Great Yarmouth and its protagonist dares to dream, it’s inspirational, a karaoke scene a true highlight – and it’s instantly captivating beneath its bleakness but rather than feeling explotative it's reigned in, like a rallying cry. This is kitchen-sink realism that doesn’t shy away from tackling stories that need to be told in this way on screen – with powerful uncompromising results.

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