Up There (review)

Up There green light Burn Gorman Aymen Hamdouchi

I’m “biast” (pro): like Burn Gorman

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I had seen the source material, but had forgotten I had, and didn’t rewatch it until after I saw this (and I loved it then and still do)

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Talk about yer dead-end job. Meet Martin, who died a few years ago, and now works as a “carer” for the newly deceased in the bureaucracy that awaits us after we kick the bucket but before we’re allowed “up there.” There’s no mention or even hint of a “down there,” which is probably the most cheerful thing about this bleakly bitter and super sly black comedy. Burn Gorman (Torchwood) is poignant and very funny, in the driest sort of way, as pale, sad Martin, shuffling around Glasgow in his too-big suit, just trying to pass the endless time, waiting for people to open doors (that stuff about being able to just pass through walls and doors is nonsense, it turns out), and hanging around the hospital for new souls to escort through the admission paperwork the afterlife requires. It’s like being on the dole: gotta check in every week, gotta attend counseling; purgatory is as mundane and as depressing as life was. Writer-director Zam Salim, making his feature debut, expands on his gloriously miserable short film “Laid Off” (which I featured in 2008) by giving Martin a new partner, motormouth Rash (Aymen Hamdouchi: Green Zone) — “You’re not talking enough,” he complains to subdued Martin. “It’s not right.” — who loses one of their charges. Their quest to return this “runner” — actor Farren Morgan is the most wonderfully wretched sad sack I’ve seen in ages — is confounded by the same sort of disheartening stuff that hinders us in life: the departed can be as manipulative, petty, and cruel as the living (when they aren’t moaners or starers who can’t cope with their reality)… though sometimes they can be nice, too, like funky Liz (Kate O’Flynn: Happy-Go-Lucky), who just might give Martin a new lease on death. Low key, offbeat, and refreshingly underplayed, this is a comedy of tragic proportions… and dread-funnily human ones.

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.
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