Goodbye Charlie Bright

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See Charlie streak. See Charlie fight. See Charlie steal a stereo. Say, “Goodbye, Charlie Bright!”

When you hit the highlights, Charlie’s life with Francis, Tommy, and Justin seems exciting on the estate—that’s the council housing estate—what Americans might be more familiar with as Section 8. Really, it’s another lazy summer, with no jobs, no girlfriends, and no cash unless you’re open to some purse-snatching and B&Es.

Actually, though, Francis has a girlfriend. So he’s not around much anymore. And Tommy’s off to Afghanistan, which is one bloody hell of a job. That leaves Charlie to his own devices, with only his Zack Morris sweater collection and a psychotic best friend.

Justin’s got Charlie to take care of him, but other than that his safety net is an ersatz godfather with a cowboy and Indian fetish, and you can tell he spends a lot of time hanging out with the voices in his own head.

Director Nick Love’s become known for his gritty looks at South-London life, but none of them are quite as sweet as this early (2001) effort. It’s a friendlier version of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. Charlie’s trapped in a nowhere town, constantly not quite doing that thing he wants to do—usually because of a misguided affection for screw-up Justin. You can just feel how much Charlie cares about this idiot, even as Justin’s increasingly erratic behavior draws Charlie into more and more violent confrontations.

The first third of the film feels like a slow burn, but if you can stick with Charlie and Justin, you might be surprised by how much Love gets you to invest in their relationship by the end. By the time you say Goodbye Charlie Bright, you’ll be wishing he could stick around.

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