London to Brighton (2006), directed by Paul Andrew Williams, stars Lorraine Stanley (Kelly), Georgie Groome (Joanne), Johnny Harris (Derek), Nathan Constance (Chum), Sam Spruell (Stuart Allen), and Alexander Morton (Duncan Allen).
Sometimes when you watch a movie with broken continuity like this it feels like it's done mainly to create momentum. This is an example of how it's supposed to look when it's done well. We are dumped in medias res with an older working girl who looks like she has been beaten up and a young girl hiding in a bathroom at a train station in London. Something has obviously gone badly wrong.
As the story progresses we find out that 11-year-old Joanne has been pimped out through the thoroughly objectionable character Derek to Duncan Allen, a substantial mobster who Derek obviously fears. The prostitute Kelly is uneasy about the whole thing, but she still goes with Joanne to her appointment with Duncan. It doesn't go as expected.
Duncan's particular tastes runs not only to paedophilia, there are also clearly sadistic overtones.
Joanne and Kelly get on a train to Brighton, hence the title of the movie, to get away from a very bad situation, and as you may well expect things only get worse from here on out. In the course of their meeting, Duncan sustains some severe injuries and Kelly and Joanne are being chased by Duncan's son Stuart. Derek manages to track them down and Stuart comes to settle his affairs and this is to my mind where the whole thing takes on the nature of the morality play.
Only the main players aren't the ones you would expect. And the retribution isn't directed where you could assume it would be. I like a decent plot twist myself and this movie will give you that.
Stylistically this is kitchen sink realism in its grittiness. Take for instance the extremely realistic shiner that Kelly sports for much of the movie or the flat where Derek lives in contrast with the pristine white Allen place where the dark scenes concerning the abuse take place. It's a case of less being more in terms of budget and creativity.
Putting a 13-year-old in the lead like this is a risky move, since so much of the action hinges on her delivering a believable performance, as a street urchin, as a victim, and as a survivor. Georgie Groome plays the young Joanne with raw energy and delivers a strong performance as does Lorraine Stanley (Kelly) who is as far from the glamorous Pretty Woman hooker with a heart of gold as you can get. Thankfully.
It's not a comfortable tale. It's not supposed to be. I’m fine with that.
The ending is actually surprisingly circular; it ends where it began, with Kelly at the train station. There is just a whole lot of things that go in between those two bisecting points and that’s what makes this movie a surprisingly understated little gem of a thing.