A Room for Romeo Brass was the third feature to come from Meadows, earning him three BIFA nominations, and considered by many to be his best film. Set in the Midlands (an area which Meadows has yet to stray from) the film follows the story of Gavin ‘Knocks’ (Ben Marshall) and Romeo (Andrew Shim)- two young boys who are befriended by local weirdo Morell (Paddy Considine) and coerced by him to persuade Romeo’s sister Ladine (Vicky McClure) to go out with him.
The film begins innocently enough- Romeo and Knocks larking around, buying pie and chips from a familiar-looking chip shop worker (one of two cameos from Meadows in the film). As the boys, who live next to each other, go in to their respective homes, we see that their bond is most probably strengthed by their mutual disdain for their own homes. Romeo’s mother (Ladene Hall) is well-meaning but incredibly domineering, and his father (Frank Harper) has just turned up unannounced after seemily deserting the family previously- something that Romeo is less than happy about. Knocks, meanwhile, suffers from an unnamed back condition, which means that his mother (Julia Harper) is kind but over-bearing, whilst his father (James Higgins) is extremely disinterested.
So it is easy to see how the boys fall prey to the naive, socially inept Morell, who rescues the boys from a beating from two local lads. At first, whilst it is obvious that Morell is a little… off, he has a certain sweet charm, as well as a fierce sense of protection for the two lads that is initially endearing. It is only when the boys play a trick on him that things start to go wrong, and Morell slowly begins to unravel- threatening Knocks at knife point (out of sight of Romeo) and creating conflict between the two boys.
Perhaps the reason that the film is so celebrated is the absolutely stirling performances by the cast, which we have now come to expect from a Meadows film. Considine gives an absolutely haunting performance as Morell. He constantly flips from the village idiot that you want to take pity on to scowling maniac who makes you want to run. In one scene in particular, he manages to get Ladine to come over to his house for a date. After psyching himself up in the most bizarre display, he dons a silk dressing gown and a tiny pair of blue y-fronts, and attempts to seduce Ladine by asking her to ‘fucking touch it.’ Ladine, barely containing her sniggers, tells him where to go. Then the scene, whic has been light-hearted up to this point, immediately turns sinister as she realises that he is not taking ‘no’ for an answer.
It’s the duality of this character that has become a signature in Meadows films, particularly through Considine. In Dead Man’s Shoes, for example, there is a definiate pity for Richard, but also an absolute fear for what he is capable of. In This is England, and particularly ’86 and ’88, we feel desperately sorry for Lol, yet at the same time exasperated with her inabilty to open up to the very people that we know can help her.
Amongst other things, Meadows manages to latch on to something very human in his films, that enable the viewer to become totally engrossed in the story. It is a skill that continues to this day with This Is England ’88, and resonates through each and every one of his films, which we will come to discover…