British Film Festival Review: Happy New Year, Colin Burstead

A family reunion New Year’s celebration brings secrets out in the open in this hilarious black comedy

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Acclaimed director Ben Wheatley returns to the screen with a dark family comedy, in the best English tradition of the genre.

Colin Burstead sees himself as somewhat the pater familias of his extended family. He decides to get them together for a New Year’s celebration, hiring Lord Richard’s country manor for the occasion. Unbeknownst to him, his sister Gini has invited their estranged, and very unpopular brother David. Add this to a mix of hypochondriacs, alcoholics, narcissists and cross-dressers and you have the formula for a screamingly funny deconstruction of the all-pervading myth of family.

Neil Maskell holds the cast together as Colin, managing to evoke both sympathy and loathing in equal measure. Sam Riley is perfect as the enigmatic David. The wonderful Hayley Squires is a stand-out as Gini. And the ever-reliable Charles Dance hits a career high as Uncle Bertie.

But this is the epitome of the ensemble piece. Every cast member contributes not just brilliant characterisation, but also elements of script. Many scenes were improvised on top of basic screenplay, giving the whole film an immediacy and authenticity. The frequent use of hand-held camera also contributes to the fly-on-the-wall feel.

This is one of the most genuinely hilarious (and vicious) comedies to come out of Britain for many a year, although it shares some similarities with Sally Potter’s 2017 gem, The Party. An examination of family, self-identity and the class system.

This is one not to be missed.

Happy New Year, Colin Burstead currently screens as part of the MINI British Film Festival at PalaceNova Eastend and Prospect.

Click here for screening times.

HYSTERICALLY FUNNY 4.5 stars

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