Some films are funny, romantic, dramatic or attempt to be a mixture of any of these. Then, every once in a while, along comes a story that makes you realise just how spectacular this particular art form can be. Chicken, the feature debut from British director Joe Stephenson, is one such film. The trailer has just been released and, although it is only just over a minute long, the brief glimpses have me captivated.
Based on a play by Freddie Machin, the story centres on Richard, a 15-year-old lad with learning difficulties, who lives in a caravan with his aimless brother Polly. Their little plot of land is sold, and the new owner wants them to leave, and then the drama begins. Richard, played by the enigmatic Scott Chambers, seems to fall for the new landlord’s daughter, Annabelle, portrayed by Yasmin Paige, and is desperate to remain. Polly (Morgan Watkins), however, seems to have other ideas.
The trailer starts off in the beautiful Essex countryside surrounding the ancient town of Colchester; we see fields, woods, barns and what seems to be an idyllic setting. However the following scenes, which show Richard covered in blood and anguished, lead us quickly into a sinister darkness. Essex is next to my home county of Suffolk and the familiar landscape is most welcome; very few films have been set in East Anglia and even fewer in the bucolic heartland. It is refreshing to see Essex portrayed as more than seaside resorts and London suburbs.
Chicken which is produced by Stephenson’s B Good Picture Company Ltd, held a screening for cast, crew and guests at BAFTA in April. Comments from viewers on Twitter described it as “hauntingly beautiful”, “gorgeous, moving” and “truly amazing”. It looks like we are definitely in for a treat.
A poster for Chicken has also been released. Created by Colorado-based designer Jay Shaw, the simple illustration of a broken eggshell, with a boy walking away, is ingenious in its simplicity. The fact that the poster carries a quote by Sir Ian McKellen, “an astonishing debut; intriguing, enchanting, moving” adds more than a little cachet. Stephen Frears, director of wonderful films The Queen and Mrs Henderson Presents, among many others, is also quoted as calling Stephenson “a striking young director”. Worthy praise indeed.
Stephenson’s name may be familiar to some as the director of the Noël Coward biopic, starring Glee’s Chris Colfer, which starts shooting next spring. I adore both Coward and Colfer, and am looking forward tremendously to the film.
McKellen, as well as Vanessa Redgrave and Jonathan Pryce, are rumoured to be attached to the project; and one could be forgiven for wondering how neophyte Stephenson attracted such luminaries of stage and screen. Well, spend a minute watching the trailer for Chicken, and you will have your answer.
Chicken will be holding Advanced Previews at London’s Phoenix Cinema on 1 December and on 21 November in Colchester, both of which 4YE will be attending. I am counting down the days.