Wessex On Screen: Cal

Cal is the 2013 sequel to Shank, which we have covered on this blog before. It stars Wayne Virgo, Tom Payne and Emily Corcoran, and unlike its predecessor, was filmed entirely on location in Bristol. Written and directed by Christian Martin, it tells of the titular character returning home to Bristol to find it torn apart by rioting and economic collapse.

Cal goes to visit his seriously ill mother, who still hasn’t forgiven him for coming out as gay, and his Aunty Jane (not actually his aunt, mercifully), who has her own unwelcome methods of trying to turn him straight, Meanwhile, he gets involved with some seriously nasty gangsters.

Cal has been well-reviewed on LGBT websites, being compared to the work of Ken Loach and Derek Jarman. The film is available on DVD,

Wessex On Screen: The Mother of Dartmoor

 The Mother of Dartmoor is a 1916 British silent drama film directed by George Loane Tucker., based on the novel The Mother by Eden Philpotts. It’s also a very difficult film to write about, at’s not clear whether any copies even survive more than a century later. Wikipedia, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), abd Letterboxd only have scant details about it, and it is not available to view on YouTube or any streaming service. In desperation, I asked ChatGPT to write a blog post about it. Now, ChatGPT is notorious for simply making things up when it doesn’t know the answer to a question, so I can’t guarantee that any of what follows is accurate. But here’s what it came up with:

In the rugged and hauntingly beautiful landscape of Dartmoor, a gripping tale unfolds. The heart of the story revolves around a mother’s love, loyalty, and the painful choices she must make.

Avesa Pomeroy, portrayed by the talented Elisabeth Risdon, finds herself in an agonizing predicament. Her son, Ives Pomeroy (played by Bertram Burleigh), is ensnared in a forbidden love affair with a married woman. Driven by passion, he turns to poaching, risking everything for the sake of this illicit romance.

But fate takes a cruel turn. Avesa, torn between her maternal instincts and the law, testifies against her own flesh and blood. Ives is sentenced to prison, and the weight of her decision hangs heavily upon her.

As the silent film unfolds, we witness the emotional turmoil, the stark beauty of Dartmoor, and the moral complexities that bind these characters. The haunting silence of the moors mirrors the unspoken grief and sacrifice that permeate the narrative.

Cast:

  • Elisabeth Risdon as Avesa Pomeroy: Her portrayal of a conflicted mother torn between love and duty is both poignant and powerful.
  • Bertram Burleigh as Ives Pomeroy: His performance captures the desperation of a man trapped by desire and circumstance.
  • Enid Bell as Jill Wicket: The enigmatic woman who ignites Ives’ passion.
  • George Bellamy as Matthew Northmore: The stern figure of justice who presides over the trial.
  • Sydney Fairbrother as Mrs. Bolt: A secondary character whose presence adds depth to the story.
  • Frank Stanmore as Sammy Bolt: A fellow poacher entangled in the web of secrets.
  • Hubert Willis as Moleskin: A mysterious figure lurking in the shadows.

The Mother of Dartmoor resonates beyond its silent frames. It explores themes of sacrifice, love, and the inexorable ties that bind families. The haunting landscapes of Dartmoor serve as a metaphor for the human soul—wild, untamed, and often unfathomable.

Though silent, this film speaks volumes about the human condition. It reminds us that our choices ripple through generations, leaving indelible marks on those we love.

As we revisit this cinematic relic, let us honor the silent era—a time when storytelling transcended words. The Mother of Dartmoor invites us to reflect on our own allegiances, the sacrifices we make, and the echoes of our decisions across time.

So, dear reader, step into the mist-shrouded moors, listen to the silent whispers of the past, and immerse yourself in the haunting beauty of this forgotten gem.

Wessex On Screen: The Land Girls

The Land Girls is a 1998 movie directed by David Leland, starring Catherine McCormack, Rachel Weisz and Anna Friel as three women from different backgrounds sent to work on a farm in Dorset during World War II as part of the Women’s Land Army initiative. Fans of the film include Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Stephen Sommers, who cast Weisz in The Mummy after seeing it.

The Women’s Land Army was first founded in 1917, to replace farm workers who had been sent to fight in World War I. It was disbanded in 1919, but revived in 1939 with the outbreak of World War II, being disbanded again in 1950. In October 2012, King Charles, then Prince of Wales. unveiled a memorial sculpture to the WLA in Moray, Scotland.

Review: 8 Minutes Idle

This review originally appeared in Wessex Chronicle Volume 15, Issue 1 (Spring 2014)

Starring Tom Hughes, Ophelia Lovibond, Montserrat Lombard, Antonia Thomas, Pippa Haywood, Paul Kaye. Directed by Mark Simon Hewis. Rated 15 for strong language and sex.

8 Minutes Idle is one of three films featured in a previous issue of the Chronicle produced on a micro-budget by the Bristol-based iFeatures initiative. It tells the story of a young man (Hughes) who is kicked out of the family home by his psycho mother (Haywood) and forced to live in the call centre where he works. With, as they say, hilarious consequences.

Hughes and Lovibond make nicely offbeat romantic leads, though the film’s Valentine’s Day release seems a touch misjudged, as it is hardly a date movie. Rather, it offers a refreshingly twisted subversion of the romcom genre, with a somewhat cynical view of romance and nary a race to the airport in sight.

For a Bristolian such as myself, location-spotting is going to be a major pleasure in any Bristol-shot movie. Here, the film falls down somewhat, as its low budget (US$500,000) means that it is confined to the call centre for much of its running time. But there are shots of Cabot Circus, Stokes Croft and the Thekla to satisfy the appetite for seeing the city on the big screen.

The cast is a mixture of (presumably) local talent and familiar faces from TV. Lombard in particular tries hard to master a Bristol accent – possibly a little too hard, but one has to give her credit for making the effort. She receives able reinforcement from the largely unknown supporting cast, with Divian Ladwa particularly funny as the socially inept Dev.

In short, despite the limitations of its budget, this is a film Bristolians will want to see, perhaps more than people from the rest of Wessex will. Its skewed worldview makes it likely to be a cult movie, rather than a mainstream hit. But the beauty of ultra-low budget cinema like this is that it can afford to take those sorts of risks, rather than simply pandering to the lowest common denominator.

Wessex On Screen: Shank

Shank is a 2009 LGBT-themed drama film directed by Simon Pearce and set in Bristol (though some scenes were filmed in Southwark). It should not be confused with a dystopian SF film with the same title made the following year. The film stars Wayne Virgo as Cal, a closeted gay gang member struggling to contain his desire for another member of the gang.

The film was shown in various gay and lesbian film festivals around the world, getting a limited theatrical release in the UK before being released on DVD. A sequel, Cal, followed in 2013.