A write-up from a blog in the states, Awaydays is getting a screening at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin Texas:
It's 1979, Merseyside, Liverpool, UK. Margaret Thatcher's recently entered No. 10 Downing Street yet England's precipitous slide into economic and cultural stagnation continues unabated. The post-punk clatter and yowl of Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Cabaret Voltaire vie for the hearts and minds of the kids on these blighted streets, but running with The Pack -- a fractious group of casually violent football hooligans sporting matching Fiorucci jeans and Adidas trainers -- is all that 17 year old Paul Carty (Nicky Bell) aspires to.
Hierarchically ruled by the far older John Godden (Stephen Graham of Inkheart and the similarly subcultural This Is England), The Pack engages in weekly ultraviolent skirmishes -- "awaydays" -- with neighboring gangs of skinheads and rude boys; lethal, easily-concealed box-cutters are their weapon of choice. When they're not slicing each other to ribbons, The Pack spends their off-hours trashing or getting trashed at the local pub, or waging war on the terraces of their hometown footballing heroes, the Tranmere Rovers. In the midst of all this short, sharp chaos there's Elvis (Liam Boyle), The Pack's art-school dropout second-in-command, who thinks he's found a way out: through Carty's heart.
Awaydays -- adapted by Kevin Sampson from his 1999 novel -- utterly submerges the audience in every cinematically conceivable aspect of the late-70's Brit-youth culture known as the Casuals. (Today's closest cultural echo would be the chavs; go back a decade-plus and it'd be Britpop's Blur vs. Oasis rivalries.)
Director Pat Holden nails the hyperspecific nexus of street, slang, and action so well that it takes a while to calibrate your inner linguist to parse the characters thick-as-smack Liverpudlian accents. Once the Yank ear gets over the absence of all those dropped final consonants and mushy vowels, though, the dialogue rushes and flows like liquid poetry, or blood from a glassed jugular.
At its grim, Cockney-rejected heart, Awaydays is a film about disenfranchised love: of youth, of subculture, of random violence, of Elvis for Carty, and of Carty for The Pack. It's a manic and maniacal slice of unknown (on these shores, anyway) Britkid history that feels extraordinarily genuine, and despite a sluggish middle section that bogs itself down in hallucinatory dreaminess, it seethes with a dangerous longing and a scrupulous attention to period detail. It's not quite Quadrophenia, but it strikes as close as you'd want without getting Sting involved.