▶︎ Looted is in virtual UK cinemas and on most digital streaming platforms including BFI Player.

Beginning as a thriller, Rene van Pannevis’s Looted is more of a throwback to kitchen-sink realism, an intimate portrait of a father and son dependent on each other in an ever-shifting world. Rob (Charley Palmer Rothwell) begins his day stealing a car with friends Leo (Thomas Turgoose) and Kasia (Morgane Polanski), a brief moment of pleasure for a group of young adults with limited options for the future. They live in a shrinking industrial town (Hartlepool), the landscape covered in refineries and wind turbines, markers of changing industries which have less and less need for human labour.

Tom Fisher as Oswald

Where Rob’s labour is needed is in the care of his disabled father Oswald (Tom Fisher), who has no idea about his criminal activities. The two are in conflict: Oswald holds on to the world of his past, the faraway places he was able to travel to, and the opportunities the docks gave him, encouraging his son to apply for work there. Rob, on the other hand, has experienced only rejection from his father’s industry, and soon learns of the betrayal of his father’s loyalty when their application to the docks for financial aid is turned down. Only Rob knows that it’s just the two of them, each resenting the other for keeping them here. Still, there are moments of reprieve, and in the course of an afternoon a visit from Rob’s friend Kasia reveals the depths of the thorny care they have for one another.

Charley Palmer Rothwell as Rob (left) and Thomas Turgoose as Leo (right)

Aadel Nodeh-Farahani’s cinematography is loose and handheld, most of the characters filmed in close-up to create an intimacy that quickly turns claustrophobic, as the spaces around them become smaller and smaller. Rob yields to Leo’s pleas to help him with another carjacking job that evening, knowing that this is the best opportunity he has to support his ailing parent. But things go awry when the stakes suddenly change.

Van Pannevis’s film, an expansion of a 2015 short called Jacked, ends up veering towards slightness – especially noticeable because he is working in a genre where more formidable stories have been told. Its strength is in the performances, especially Rothwell’s, as we watch Rob having to come to terms with a whole new world. Both father and son tried to escape their lot, but like the sea which surrounds them, were always pulled back by the tide.

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