2011 saw Dexter Fletcher’s first attempt as director, and the outcome – Wild Bill – is certainly something special. Fletcher, before taking the helm of this picture, can be seen in an array of Brit classics including Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Layer Cake (the actor is a clear favourite of Matthew Vaughn). His first (and so far only) feature is a character piece, a drama with a heart that focuses on a family coming together for the first time. That family consists of (protagonist of the title) Bill (Charlie Creed-Miles) and sons Dean (Will Poulter) and Jimmy (the adorable, and rather talented Sammy Williams). With no mum in the picture, and Bill only just back from prison, the boys have been fending for themselves and the arrival of their Dad for the first time in eight years isn’t initially received well. What ensues is a, at times, funny and often heartfelt story that realistically portrays the difficulties lower-class Brits struggle with.
While Fletcher is just flexing his directorial muscles for the first time here, at no point does Wild Bill feel like a film made by a novice. Fletcher directs his characters in a natural way and allows lead Creed-Miles to comfortably take centre stage as a clueless father. Simplistic rather than stylish (which is more often scene in Brit films from the likes of Guy Ritchie) Wild Bill is clearly a project with a message; the role of social services is brought in, and it feels as though Fletcher is questioning their authority (or more appropriately lack of). The audience are often reminded that the boys have been alone for nine months without any parental guidance, and lends to us all asking why they slipped under the radar. Perhaps less relevant, but adding an urban grit, are scenes of the manufacturing of drugs, accompanied by a contemporary, and cool as hell soundtrack. As a whole the film explores life on a council estate in a part of London which is under development (shot before the Olympics) and Fletcher takes a non-judgmental stance as writer and director.
Will Poulter stands out here as a young actor with severe talent – he has since moved on to Hollywood pictures, but to see him as Dean, a responsible, and rather sweet young man is a treasure. His chemistry with Creed-Miles makes for a real sense of the trials that come with a father-son relationship, culminating in a bond that softens the hearts of all who watch. Sammy Williams is fantastic as eleven year old Jimmy, a stand-out scene between him and Creed-Miles (and the involvement of paper planes) is so simple yet incredibly effective and come the end you are rooting for this family. Beyond these three the film is generally a great presentation of British acting talent (Andy Serkis and Iwan Rheon both support, with the latter adding comic relief).
See it, love it, relate to it and remember that Wild Bill is the essence of Brit cinema at its very best.