Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Entertainment One

Original release: January 21st, 2011
Certificate: 18
Running time: 124 minutes

Writer and director: Peter Mullan
Composer: Craig Armstrong

Cast: Conor McCarron, Peter Mullan, Greg Forrest, Joe Szula, John Jo Hay, Gary Lewis

One day at work, my manager; a proud Scotsman lent to me a film called NEDS. Without knowing, I found myself being launched into a 1970′s Glasgow full of violence, recession, fury and knife crime; just my kind of film. Ever since, I have been obsessed with the whys and hows of this quirky drama. My research has taken me into the past and so, I have written my own reading of this great film by a truly inspirational actor-turned-director; Peter Mullan and I intend on showing you some of his past.

The reason why this film attracts me is that, even though it was set over forty years ago, the themes conveyed are just as relevant in today’s society. Think about the London riots, the recession, the anger felt over the summer of 2011; the youth are still just as angry now as they were back in the 70′s. What a year to have released such a jaw dropping, socially realistic film.


Mullan takes us into the life of a young John McGill, entering middle school after previously earning promising grades. Almost instantly, we are thrown into the savage life that he cannot escape. One factor being due to the realisation of loosing his middle-class new friend Julian, whose mother shines light on his poor upbringing, dysfunctional family and social status. The school adds more misery to his life as he has to prove his worth before he can be taken seriously, thanks to his gang leader and extremely violent brother; Benny and alcoholic father played by Mullan. McGill finds himself part of a gang, who become caught up in the excitement of territorial wars.

Around the 1970′s, like many other cities, Glasgow embarked on a slum clearance programme, Many buildings were demolished because of the clearance and also, many houses were pulled down to make way for the M8 and so, people were re-homed in to flats; this is where territorial, estate gang wars will have branched from. Moreover, lack of jobs, lack of wealth and lack of education would have drive these youths into fighting. They had not much else.

Mullan describes NEDS as personal but not autobiographical; he grew up in Glasgow. The sense of realism throughout, gives us evidence on how this story was once lived. However, the slaughtering of Jesus Christ scene shows us that there are fictional parts to his story. The scene showing McGill knifing Jesus is one of the most controversial scenes within this tale. It is not as shockingly violent as others however, the dream-like way that it is filmed completely differs from the rest of the film.

Most of the film is shot using small frames, making it difficult to see the whole picture. Mullan creates a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere throughout. The closeness of his shots portrays the connection between the director and his own experiences. Moreover, The way in which every sequence is shot gives a sort of Dead Man’s Shoes feel, as if it was filmed by just one camera. Mullan is trying to make us relive the 70′s as if we were right there in the shot.


On the other hand, the scene involving a hallucination of Jesus is blurred, slow paced and brightly lit. The camera is still unbalanced but the images are slightly unfocused, as if you are watching it with one eye closed. I think the main reason why this particular scene stands out is the fact that it is not written in the same style; the paranormal, mystical themes that are conveyed confuses the audience. It made me question what was real within the film as it was such a huge juxtaposition to add in.

Also, the main point about Christianity is forgiveness. This scene shockingly shows Jesus trying to attack McGill. The scene feels ridiculous but when you strip it back to it’s meaning, understanding becomes clearer. The way in which the spiked wooden crown falls from Jesus’ head onto McGill symbolises McGill’s belief that even Jesus has lost faith in him, even Jesus regrets giving his life up for him. These are strong messages shown and can be seen as far too controversial. Yet, I think that this film has controversy written all over it anyway and the fact that Mullan is not afraid to express himself establishes this film.

Mullan uses this scene to portray anger towards religion, anger felt by the youths who have been let down by the world. John McGill must seek revenge on all his enemies, the school bully, other gangs, Julian, his teachers and his father but mostly, society, as it has been the factor that truly let him down.

Quite obviously, this film is rated 18 for the brutal and violent acts portrayed. Though, I feel that it’s target audience are young people. Mullan’s ideas of this film were for young people to see this, his target audience are teenagers. The rating caused controversy and Mullan was not happy. He thought that if teenagers watched this film, it would not make them want to go out and fight, it would make them terrified, embarrassed and well and truly shocked.


The way in which the upbeat, happy soundtrack contrasts completely against the brutality of all the gore being shown on screen tells the audience that back then, violence was quite normal. For instance, when McGill brutally slashers his fathers body, if we just listened to the song, we would think it was some kind of disco. The scene showing the two gangs abusing each other from either side of the bridge, allowing a mother and her child to pass through just proves how the older generations did not worry too much about the violence happening around them.

Like many other British films that use drab portrayals of kitchen sink, socially realistic representations, Mullan uses comedy to help tone down the messages when the narrative becomes too tense; sometimes, it can have the opposite affect. Black humour is used often when Mr McGill, John’s father, is shown. Every night, the father shouts abuse at his wife from the bottom of the stairs. It’s funny because he’s completely drunk and can hardly stand. Yet, it shouldn’t be because we know, when she finally goes to him, she will be beaten or raped. Sometimes comedy can be a far more successful way to create a feeling of unease; the calm before the storm…

What is so great about this film is that Mullan is not afraid to show the flaws in his own society, he is not afraid to shine a bad light on his country, his city. This film is raw and truthful. It will make you feel slightly sick and put off by your dinner but all in all, this film is unique, thrilling, shocking and brilliantly created. Even if you find the Scottish accent hard to follow, the actions and mise en scene within NEDS tells you all you need to know.


About Lauren Mannion

Lauren Mannion

Lauren is final year student on a Creative Media course with the aim of starting university later this year. She enjoys spending her time either writing, analyzing, watching films or pouring pints for the locals at work.

An avid cult fan, she also enjoys films that depict social realism and are not afraid to be bold and brutal. On the other hand, she also likes the odd ones too; Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude is one of her favourite films. People she admires include director Shane Meadows and Hollywood icons James Stewart and Orson Welles who was 26 when he made Citizen Kane. “I have 5 more years to prepare a film that’s as good as his…”