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Gabriel & Me
cast: Iain Glen, David Bradley, Sean Landless, Rosie Rowell, and Billy Connolly

director: Udayan Prasad

83 minutes (15) 2001
Pathé VHS rental

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
Newcastle lad Jimmy Spud has a peculiar ambition. He wants to be an angel. He's not big on theology, but the helping people sounds great - and what he really wants to do is fly. When the Archangel Gabriel, in the unlikely form of a large hairy Scotsman, agrees he can serve an apprenticeship, he expects miracles and magic. All he gets is scepticism from his socialist grandfather, and verbal abuse from his unemployed, emotionally crippled father. When dad is diagnosed with terminal cancer, it seems to be his last chance to prove himself - but is this beyond his powers?
   Scripted by Lee Hall, writer of Billy Elliot, this coming-of-age drama shares many of the same preoccupations - father/son relationships, the collapse of the industrial north, culture clash and masculinity. There's even a discussion of whether all ballet dancers are 'poofs'... It's a very much grittier piece, however; Jimmy's father is almost entirely unsympathetic, his one school friend turns on him, and the ending is far from idyllic.
   The weakness of Jimmy's motivation lets the film down slightly - given that his major interest is in flying, surely becoming a pilot or a paragliding champion is a more logical ambition? However, it's a powerful, if sometimes uncomfortable, story, and strong performances from young Sean Landless and a laidback Billy Connelly hold the film together.
   Gabriel & Me is an interesting, but inferior, companion piece to that infamous dancing debut.
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