After the case of the Ipswich ripper in 2006 was solved, a series of recorded interviews of the local townspeople were collected. It is from these interviews that the musical London Road has been created, taking what the people said exactly as they said it and them putting it to music. This is the screen adaptation of the stage musical.
The murder of five prostitutes on the streets of Ipswich may seem like an odd basis to form a musical comedy around. Because it is odd. Extremely odd. But that doesn’t stop it from being funny, catchy and incredibly moving at points. I do warn you though if you go in not prepared for the weird and wonderful you are in for quite a shock.
I’d just like to start off by expressing how bloody impressed I am that someone managed to musicalize interviews as well as they did. The use of the natural rhythm and melody in speech is taken seamlessly into song form as if the people were speaking to the music in the first place. For about the first 10 minutes of the film I just sat there in awe, thinking “how on earth have they done this”. Once I got over my initial amazement, I realised that not only had they created credible songs from these interviews, but they had also made incredibly catchy ones (my personal favourite being it could be him). But let me stop you right there if you are thinking London Road is just an oddball novelty, because London Road packs all of the other features you’ve got from the best films of 2015.
It is a funny film. Not in a laugh-out-loud-then-pee-yourself funny kind of way, but a continual chuckle kind of funny. With the comic peak being Tom Hardy’s appearance as the serial killer obsessed taxi driver. Incidentally this also ranks as one of the most unsettling moments. That combination of humour and unsettlement is a theme that runs throughout London Road. Take for example the scene in which he hear a news reporter’s complaints about what synonyms of sperm he can and can’t use before the watershed – a very funny scene until you think about how this joke is essentially riffing off him having to report the rape and murder of a young girl. But I’m not sure I’d go as far as to say it was an actual comedy.
I cried more at London Road than I have done at a film for a number of months now actually. I won’t tell you at what bit because I don’t want to ruin anything. But I was not expecting to get so caught up with these characters, especially seeing as a few of them just aren’t nice people really. But I did, I got completely involved with them. And one particular scene pretty close to the end had me streaming.
The performances are overwhelmingly superb. The fact that everyone plays this incredibly strange musical about a serial killer with enough sincerity for you to at some points believe that these are the real people who experienced this. You forget its actors even though they are singing. Tom Hardy pulls out I think his best performance since Bronson as the incredibly creepy and unnerving taxi driver who had the entire cinema audience (me and one other bloke) in nervous laughter. But the star of the show is Oliva Colman (wow shocker), and to be honest how she maintains the glow her character has after saying the things she does is quite beyond me.
But my favourite element of London Road is how it completely lets the audience decide where it stands on it all and it portrays each character completely non-judgementally no matter what they say or do. It also isn’t afraid to show you the real girt of the situation, it doesn’t flinch away from showing you exactly what people thought and it’s not always pretty.
Overall this is definitely one to seek out because it is a truly weird and wonderful piece of work. Just make sure you know what you are getting into before you start.