Lad: A Yorkshire Story - Small, Honest And Charming
Tom and his brother contemplate the future
Although we live in a world where we can access art and culture from all the corners of the earth without leaving our living room, there's still an undeniable joy from seeing something that's been made almost on your doorstep. Lad: A Yorkshire Story is a small but endearing indie film shot in our own beloved Yorkshire Dales.
When Tom Proctor (Bretten Lord)'s dad dies unexpectedly and his house looks like it might be repossessed, it feels like his life's fallen apart. He skives off school, rebels against authority and soon finds himself in trouble with the police. When he's sent on community service he finds himself helping Al Thorpe (Alan Gibson), a Yorkshire Dales National Park ranger, who might just be the father figure he desperately needs.
'Definitely recommended for those who know and love this beautiful area'
The main draw for Lad is the Yorkshire scenery. The film was shot in and around the charming Dales villages of Settle and Austwick, inspired by the filmmakers' visits to the area. They've done a stellar job and this little slice of the Dales has perhaps never looked better on film.
There are plenty of big, wide landscapes that everyone expects to see, of course, but the filmmakers have also managed to find a few smaller little corners that don't make it onto the calendars. By limiting themselves to a relatively small area, they also avoid the usual geographical inaccuracies that often plague stories set in the area. Obviously it cheats a little bit - most films do - but I think local residents will still find the location shooting a real treat.
The story itself, on the other hand, is nothing special. It will probably remind you of many, many similar coming-of-age films, and most viewers will predict every beat of the story long before it happens. That's not bad on its own - many great films rely on conventions and ideas that we've seen before - and it's a decent structure to hang the script on.
Molly McGlynn & Bretton Lord
It mostly avoids much of the sentimentality that the genre is known for (Yorkshire folk don't go in for that, after all) and succeeds in striking just the right tone throughout. Too often stories like this end up playing on audience sympathies to an almost comical degree, endlessly piling on the misery until you just can't watch any more, but director Dan Hartley wisely gives us many moments of levity and comedy to keep things bouncing along. Oh, Tom's having a hard time, but that doesn't mean things are miserable all the time. It's hard not to cheer at Tom's hilarious tractor prank!
Perhaps one problem with Lad is that it doesn't really do an awful lot with its characters. Bretton Lord and Alan Gibson both do a fine job in their roles, but their characters are not as strong as they could be. For example, at several points we're told that Tom has an interest in rocks and fossils, but it never feels like a natural part of his character. We see his collection all around his bedroom, never see him doing anything with rocks besides throwing some bits of slate around, and he only talks about them very briefly. We're told that he's passionate about them, but we never see it. It just feels thrown in rather than a core part of who he is, and it's a shame because it would have been a good opportunity to show another side of him.
Bretton Lord and Alan Gibson
Similarly, Al sometimes comes across too much like a guardian angel, only existing to help Tom learn some life lesson or another with no agency of his own. Apart from one scene near the end Al's own motivations and desires are only dimly alluded to and he feels more like the product of screenwriting convenience than a fully-formed character.
Still, these are pretty minor problems in the grand scheme of things. Overall this is a really well put together Yorkshire drama that manages to be warm without being saccharine. I give it three stars for a general audience, but for a Yorkshire Dales audience I give it a full extra star! Definitely recommended for those who know and love this beautiful area.
Lad: A Yorkshire Story is currently previewing in Yorkshire cinemas - for details of dates, times and venues click here.