I love my last born child, Ben. Growing up he had a hard time of it, not shunned, as such, by other family, he was nevertheless very much a handful; this meant that he was often excluded. It took six years, but eventually he was diagnosed with ADHD, thus all his anger, his fastidiousness with work, his outlook on life and his inability to sit still, stem from this condition. Bringing him up was a trial, still is, but now understanding him makes for an easier time as the battling turns to compromise and leeway is given where before none would. There are still times, of course, when he drives me up the wall. But through it all, there is that undying love that you have for your child. It seems so abhorrent to me then that any parent could subject their child to any form of abuse. The tragic stories in the news are so unbelievable one cannot fathom what or how such atrocities occur. The saddest thing is that generally they are circular. A formerly abused parent is far more likely to abuse their own offspring showing clearly that nurture plays such an important part in the upbringing process; it takes a very strong person to break the cycle. The titular character of tonight's feature, Bubby, was victim to the most horrific of abuses. One that at the time of its release you could not believe possible but, in the light of monsters such as Josef Fritzl, seem absolutely credible now.
Director Rolf de Heer reportedly took ten years to write the screenplay before committing it to celluloid. He had a singular vision, one in which the audience mimic the experience of Bubby in each new area of the outside world, to which he employed a different cinematographer for each scene. Each one was never given the chance to see what the previous cinematographer had shot (the film was shot in sequence, giving rise to Nick Hope's stunning performance, more on which later) but since the story was of such an oppressive nature, each one came up with similar ideas, thus the film's look flows very naturally without any jarringly different scenes, but with enough migration that brings about a weird, but enchanting, almost ethereal look. In what was only his fourth film, de Heer shows an incredible amount of ingenuity and maturity. The script itself is pretty damning in it persecution and de Heer guides us through this dank and depressing life with vigour and unbelievably, considering the subject matter, humour.
The story, in a line, is about Bubby, a thirty something man that has spent his entire life locked in one apartment by his incestuous mother, who, upon the arrival of his drunken abusive father, finally breaks out of his environment to discover a whole new world that is, at times, even more cruel than the life he knew before, and then has to come to terms with it. Sounds very simple doesn't it? Well, it's not. De Heer's stark and uncompromising script forces us to take a good long look at how truly grim the world can be, through the trauma of childhood to the inhumanity of man and how, an innocent soul, as badly mistreated as can be, with a determination and true companionship can overcome the most awful of times. There must be no illusion here, watching this film can be a trial at times, there are scenes that are extremely uncomfortable to get through, however, such is de Heer's skill that the moralistic tale is one that is both heart warming and just in its execution. For those that can stomach the film, it leaves you with a tremendous feeling of satisfaction, and I for one find it powerful and compelling and for that reason it is definitely a 'must see' film.
On top of the poignant script, the casting of Nick Hope as the titular character has much to do with the films success. Hope, with his loony hair, wild eyes but gentle demeanour has you on his side right from the start. He captures that childlike innocence so crucial to the role, for without this sympathetic character there would be nothing but dank depression all the way through. Bubby himself is not simple, he is uneducated in every sense of the word, able only to communicate by mimicking what he has previously heard upon first meetings he is usually cast within the mentally disabled mould, when in fact he has a keen and inquisitive mind. This mind is put under huge pressure when everyone he meets uses him in one way or another, save one particular group. Even those who are supposed to represent good, the Salvation Army, for example, pick him up and abuse him of sorts. And as for the police that can't or won't understand and lock him up only to be raped, so much for serve and protect. All this finally manages to unhinge Bubby, his personality splits, albeit consciously, and he takes on the persona of his father. It is only the intervention of a band of rockers, normally painted in the dimmest of lights, who treat him with any kind of respect, their song “Bad boy Bubby” making the title of the film. His experiences lead him to front this band with his intense reliving of his experiences blowing out of him in a spellbinding stage performance. The switching of his persona's back and forth when talking to Angel, a literal saviour of his soul, shows that Bubby is clear on his actions and aware of what is going on. This too is symbolised by his eventual treatment of the cats, originally extremely cruel and keeping it confined, then seeing the error of his way, breaking the cycle, freeing and wanting to help - something he, himself, so desperately needs.
There are few films that are able to truly move you with their substance; Bad Boy Bubby is one such film. The very blackest of comedies it manages to enthral and entertain, if your idea of entertainment is thumb screws, ending with a pay off of immense satisfaction. I agree that it is in a niche market, but it is a film that deserves to be seen, miss it and you are missing out on how truly absorbing the medium of film can be.
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