From High Rise to Kill List, it’s safe to say that Ben Wheatley’s work is controversial and audacious to say the least. I enjoy his films, especially some of his more lighthearted work, such as Sightseers and Free Fire. However, on the other hand, you have A Field In England, a sloppy boring pretentious mess that goes nowhere with it’s narrative. So where does Happy New Year, Colin Burstead land on this spectrum? Unfortunately, Ben’s latest lands on the latter part of his filmography, due to its unfocused and overtly angry direction. Just like the film’s main protagonist Colin Burstead, the film screams and argues without much of a purpose.
The final line of dialogue sums up the film’s unintentional microaggression in the best way possible:
“I need to get as far away from these people. FUCK THEM!”
Happy New Year, Colin Burstead is a failed attempt at the single location-set argument flick. Films such as The Party and Beatriz at Dinner (which were both made in 2017, approximately one year before this film started production) moderately succeeded in actually adding care and understanding to its characters. What I find most shocking about Wheatley’s latest, is that there isn’t a single character (with an exception of a specific landlord supporting role) who isn’t a fucking asshole. Not one of these characters have a single redeemable trait until the final 30 minutes, in which the film attempted to redeem these characters, in a nice little bow to complete their arks, but failed due to how there wasn’t anything to redeem them of in the first place. None of these characters had an internal or external conflict, except for the fact that they despised one another. All of these characters could be replaced with a loud angry rock, and the emotional distance and chemistry between them would be exactly the same.
To make matters worse, this is easily Ben’s weakest outing on a technical level. While it’s beautiful cinematography of the Welsh countryside was pleasing to look at, the directing and editing of the film felt incredibly sloppy. There’s plenty of transitions and quick cuts that felt ridiculously amateur, especially compared with Wheatley’s previous outing Free Fire, which had outstanding set pieces that felt perfectly connected with each other. At times, this made the film feel like a first feature. Directing wise, there’s wasn’t much here to begin with. Some cool usages of shadows and slow motion were sprinkled here and there, but as for a cohesive style to connect the film together, there was nothing here to admire about. I would also like to note that this film had the biggest waste of a near perfect score that I have ever witnessed. Clint Mansell’s determined work is brilliant, using sharp strings and vivid vocals to create a nostalgic family reunion feel, that was unfortunately underused and didn’t feel thematically relevant to the film’s narrative.
Happy New Year, Colin Burstead is a derivative, condescending, irritable farce. The only real plus side to the film is it’s underused soundtrack, the occasionally fine performances (more specifically from Hayley Squires, who gives yet another compelling character piece like in I, Daniel Blake, albeit her lack of development from her character’s part), and the visually appealing cinematography. A tasteless and aimless family dysfunction character piece that retreads the overused and predictable formula with nothing new to offer. Wheatley’s most disappointing work by far.
Happy New Year, Colin Burstead will air on BBC 2 in the UK on Christmas Day
North American Release Date is Undetermined