2013’s Filth is the film adaptation of Irivine Welsh’s novel of the same name. Irvine Welsh, of course, is best known on account of Trainspotting which famously depicted Edinburgh’s gritty, drug addled underbelly and centred around a group of heroin addicts. But in sharp contrast to Welsh’s most famous work, Filth rejects grit to an extent, in favour of sheer unadulterated depravity. Memorable scenes depict Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy,) engaging in all manner of unsavoury activity from sleeping with colleagues’ wives and girlfriends; framing people for crimes he committed himself to occasionally being shockingly racist. By the end of half an hour of Filth any viewer would and will hate Bruce Robertson, just when you think you’ve seen him at his worst, a new layer of his depraved character is graphically unveiled.
While some films attempt to use sheer graphic vulgarity as a selling point in itself, (and some have accused Filth of being guilty of this,) Filth ultimately uses the device more constructively and takes the viewer through a gut-wrenching roller coaster of shock and surprise. Having created a character that the viewer feels utterly unable to sympathise with, the film then daringly attempts to challenge that, with what could easily be one of the most unexpected on screen plot twist ever- (no spoilers here!) and this makes the films vulgarity feel justifiable, it’s a crucial foundation of the journey Filth attempts to take the viewer on. That said, the sheer amount of it does make the early sections of the film feel somewhat like a drug fuelled sex romp going on purely for its own sake- stick with the film though and it will pay dividends as the rich examination of Bruce’s cracked character unfolds.
Jim Broadbent makes a startling cameo as DS Robertson’s Doctor.
James McAvoy plays the part of Bruce well and it’s a demanding one- reflecting the emotional extremes of an essentially broken man, was the challenge, and McAvoy’s performance fits the bill perfectly, making the film still more immersive. The casting elsewhere is near flawless as well, Eddie Marsan is the perfect fit as Clifford Blades, (one of Bruce’s naïve and unwitting victims,) and Jim Broadbent makes a startling cameo as DS Robertson’s Doctor who appears both in reality and in Bruce’s stark dreams. (Incidentally Broadbent’s character has one of the most memorable lines in the film- “No more cocaine and chip suppers for Bruce, ey!”)
Overall Filth is tremendously entertaining and very, very aptly named. Those that watch Filth for a few simple, dirty laughs will definitely get more than they bargained for, as Filth is a film of hidden depths. Essentially documenting one mans’ journey to ruination, this is not what the film seems at the outset, initially the viewer is led to believe that DS Robertson and his colleagues competing for a promotion will be the hub of the plot. This clever turnaround makes Filth infinitely memorable and gives the film real depth. Trainspotting it is not, but arguably Filth deserves something akin to the cult classic status that Irivine Welsh’s earlier work accrued on screen.
By George Storr