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Drunken Butterflies Review

Outside of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, no directors are tackling working-class sorrow in the mainstream. These stories are pushed to the wayside, no surprise really when you consider the treatment of the northern parts of England. It’s up to smaller filmmakers to give life to the underrepresented movements, classes and cultures. Drunken Butterflies gives such an opportunity to the proletariat streets of Newcastle, lighting up an impressive array of individuals, souls who have years of experience ahead of them, and little behind them. The vices and convincing portrayals of the average teen absorbed by love and lust, booze and bile, those feelings revel in this piece from director Garry Sykes.

Capturing interviews and arguments that feel and seem rather natural, Drunken Butterflies can pride itself on being a film that loves its setting, but also criticises the lack of care seen for the north from those below the north and south divide. Sykes and his cast turn in admirable efforts, independent filmmakers looking to shine a light on the injustices found within their hometowns. A great piece on the whole, one that relies on a loosely connected narrative, moments that feel disconnected from one another, but ultimately converge on the same key points that are demonstrated to us in the opening of the piece.

Some moments of dialogue stumble from time to time, but they find their footing and lead to frivolous engagement between a handful of subjects who attempt to collate experiences of working-class woes. Interviews with the people found on the streets of the Tyne and Wear area are engaging and interesting, what the people of Newcastle truly think of the place, the people, and the culture. How it all comes together to bring some semblance of happiness or even contentedness, whilst at the same time showing the underlying issues found within a place that prides itself on being a homely, friendly place.

Drunken Butterflies is a great amalgamation of documentary styles and dramatic prose, one that muses on the working-class life of the North East with subtlety, bravado and care. It’s a sad shame that there aren’t more stories of life in the likes of Newcastle or Sunderland, but Sykes’ direction here leaves me hungry for more stories in this vein. How some people will live and die simply hoping to have the satisfaction of existing, their aims shot down by ill-fated happenstance, concepts out of their control and away from their thoughts, it’s a sad truth, but one Sykes and his team develop with such care and concern for the people they brush shoulders with on a day to day basis.

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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