Skunk (Eloise Laurence) is a bright 11-year-old girl, living with her single father and teenage brother in a house at the end of a claustrophobic cul-de-sac in middle England. A Polish live-in au pair plays the role of surrogate mother, whose own turbulent relationship with Mike (Cillian Murphy) – Skunk’s school teacher – is played out in Skunk’s home whilst her father is at work.
Most adults perplex Skunk, except her troubled neighbour Rick (Robert Emms), whom she presumes to trust but who’s ominously drawn to her innocence.
This is a rite of passage tale in the tradition of the British social realism genre. Eloise Laurence shines as Skunk, but other characters lack real depth – with the exception of Skunk’s father, Tim Roth, who lends composure to his performance.
No new shattering social observations are made but – as someone raised on similar English housing estates during the 1980s – there’s a ring of truth to the incessant ordeals in an artificial community.
This is the directorial debut of theatre director Rufus Norris, which may account for a staged atmosphere. Its strengths are found in intimate moments; the father-daughter relationship, and Skunk’s courtship by a tough local boy with a kind heart. (RF)