A Room for Romeo Brass

UK/Canada 1999

Reviewed by Mark Kermode


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Nottingham schoolchildren Romeo Brass and Gavin 'Knocks' Woolley are neighbours and best friends, helping each other through the trials of an absentee father and damaged spine respectively. When a limping Knocks is bullied by local thugs, Romeo intervenes but is himself saved from a beating by twentysomething misfit Morrell.

Morrell drives Romeo home and meets his mother and sister Ladine. He becomes infatuated with Ladine. Morrell befriends Romeo and Knocks, who gives him jokingly misleading advice on how to dress to impress Ladine, resulting in humiliation for Morrell. Romeo's father Joe returns home, unwelcomed by his son and former partner, and confronts Morrell who continues to pursue Ladine. On a day trip to the beach, Morrell threatens Knocks, who subsequently withdraws from Romeo. As Knocks is admitted to hospital for back treatment, Romeo moves in with Morrell, whose attempted seduction of Ladine ends in angry confrontation. Rejected, Morrell throws Romeo out of his house, and attacks one of Ladine's suitors. When Morrell attacks Knocks' father, Joe intervenes, beats him and sees him off, thereby precipitating a family bonding. Romeo and Knocks are reunited, and perform a magic show together.


If there is indeed such a thing as a British film tradition it probably owes less to the Laura Ashley loveliness of the Merchant Ivory period romps which sell so well abroad than to the lower-budget work of film-makers like Shane Meadows, who is fast becoming to cinema what Morrissey once was to pop. Refining the blend of realism and romance which characterised 24 7, Meadows again proves himself one of our most intriguing visual poets with this engaging picture of English mores. At once insightful and inspirational, it reminds us that it's possible to make extraordinary movies about apparently ordinary people.

Whatever else it may seem to be, A Room for Romeo Brass is first and foremost a love story, played out between a succession of odd couples: two young boys, an estranged husband and wife, a misfit and his unattainable siren. Indeed, during one musical interlude, Meadows even plays Sunhouse's 'If This Is Love' against a montage of the lost souls, at odds with their partners, to drive the point home. In other hands it could be monstrously corny, but somehow the earthiness of the characters, the believable quirkiness of their relationships and the unsentimental eye through which Meadows spies them all (accompanied by an edgily endearing soundtrack of Beck, Ian Brown, Billy Bragg and others) prevent the project from sliding into mere pop-video clichés.

Instead, what we have here is a cinematic slice of life filtered through 30 years of British popular culture. From its Kes-style opening, to its classic television sitcom closing credits, Romeo Brass hits the nostalgic home-grown touchstones with ease, but crucially avoids cosiness at every turn. Like Ken Loach and Les Blair before him, Meadows possesses an unflinching eye which does not need rose-tinted spectacles to find delightful sights. What marks Meadows' work apart from that of many of his contemporaries is his ability to negotiate the change from significance to insignificance, drama to comedy, and humour to horror with ease, allowing each element to flow into the next as if each were an individually observed moment. On at least two occasions (most notably, Morrell's attempted seduction-cum-rape of Ladine) the juncture between laughter and violence is crossed so subtly that the audience is left genuinely shocked.

As before, Meadows is aided and abetted by a handsomely accomplished cast, with newcomers Andrew Shim and Ben Marshall delivering the sort of confidently accomplished youthful performances that only come from actors who have been genuinely put at their ease by their director. The parents also hit the right note throughout, thanks (apparently) to some on-camera improvisation, jokey outtakes of which are tacked on at the end presumably to leave the audience feeling good about these people, which we do. Special mention is due to Paddy Considine whose repressed nasal Morrell lurches from sad misfit, to jestery goon, to hateful bully with consistent conviction, encapsulating the wide emotional range of the entire eccentric movie.


Shane Meadows
George Faber
Charles Pattinson
Paul Fraser
Shane Meadows
Director of Photography
Ashley Rowe
Paul Tothill
Production Designer
Crispian Sallis
Nick Hemming
©Romeo Brass Limited
Production Companies
Alliance Atlantis and BBC Films present in association with the Arts Council of England a Company Pictures/ Big Arty production
Supported by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of England
Executive Producers
András Hámori
David M. Thompson
Line Producer
Ronaldo Vasconcellos
Heads of Production
Alliance Atlantis:
Lacia Kornylo
BBC Films:
Joanie Blaikie
Production Executive
BBC Films:
Geoffrey Paget
Production Supervisor
Robert Jones
Production Co-ordinators
Willow Grylls
Toby Simpson
BBC Films:
Sarah Best
Production Manager
Mike Day
Assistant Directors
Sean Cameron Guest
James Haven
Jane Burgess
Script Supervisor
Mary Haddow
Casting Director
Abi Cohen
Story Editor
Robyn Slovo
Camera Operators
Ashley Rowe
Vince McGahon
Steadicam Operators
Vince McGahon
Alf Tramontin
Timelapse Cameramen
Maxim Ford
Martin Testar
Digital Effects
Men in White Coats
Video Editor
Stephen Garrett
Costume Designer
Robin Fraser Paye
Wardrobe Supervisor
Sophie Doncaster
Hair/Make-up Artist Design
Hair/Make-up Artist
Tapio Salmi
Title Design
Pauline Hume
Title Opticals
Mick Lenny
Studio 51
Music Supervisor
Bob Last
Music Co-ordinator
Heather Bownass
"A Message to You Rudy" by Robert Livingstone Thompson, performed by The Specials; "O Maria", "Dead Melodies" by Beck Hansen, performed by Beck; "Corpses in Their Mouths" by Ian Brown, A. Ibrahim, performed by Ian Brown; "Jesus Walking" by/performed by Nick Hemming; "Matty Groves" (trad), performed by Fairport Convention, arranged by Sandy Denny, Ashley Hutchings, Richard Thompson, Dave Mattocks, Simon Nicol, Dave Swarbrick; "Twenty Five Miles" by Malcolm Starr, Johnny Bristol, Harvey Fuqua, Jerry Wexler, Bert Berns, performed by Edwin Starr; "Move It on Over" by/performed by Hank Williams; "Stolen Car" by Beth Orton, Sean Food, William Blanchard, performed by Beth Orton; "John Lee" by Dave Swarbrick, performed by Fairport Convention; "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" by Andrew Oldham, Dave Skinner, performed by P.P. Arnold; "Don't Forget Your Shovel" by Christie Hennessy, performed by Christy Moore; "Civvy Street Fiasco" by Stephen Loare, performed by Unisex; "Fox in the Snow" by/performed by Belle & Sebastian; "5,6,7,8" by Steve Crosby, Barry Upton, performed by Steps; "Colours" by Donovan Leitch, performed by Donovan; "Listen Here" by/ performed by Eddie Harris; "If This Is Love" by Gavin Clarke, performed by Sunhouse; "Going Down" by Ian Brown, John Squire, performed by Stone Roses; "Everywhere" by Greg Trooper, Ed Griffin, performed by Billy Bragg; "After Midnight" by/performed by J.J. Cale
Paul Fraser
Sound Recordist
Colin Nicolson
Re-recording Mixer
Paul Hamblin
Supervising Sound Editor
Catherine Hodgson
Dialogue Editor
Jonathan Hemming
Ted Swanscott
Tim Hands
Jack Stew
Felicity Cottrell
Ted Swanscott
Michael Redfern
Magic Adviser
Paul Fraser
Stunt Co-ordinator
Glenn Marks
Andrew Shim
Romeo Brass
Ben Marshall
Gavin 'Knock Knock' Woolley
Paddy Considine
Frank Harper
Joseph Brass
Julia Ford
Sandra Woolley
James Higgins
Bill Woolley
Vicky McClure
Ladine Brass
Ladene Hall
Carol Brass
Bob Hoskins
Steven Laws
Martin Arrowsmith
Dennis Wardrobe
Dave Blant
school pianist
Darren Campbell
Shaun Fields
male nurse
Nicholas Harvey
neighbour lad 2
Shane Meadows
fish and ship shop man
Joel Morris
park lad 1
Johann Myers
Tanya Myers
Sammy Pasha
ambulance man
Jamahl Peterkin
neighbour lad 1
James Tomlinson
park lad 2
Paul Fraser
Arthur Meadows
Justin Brady
Anthony Clarke
Karl Collins
Alliance Releasing (UK)
8,142 feet
90 minutes 28 seconds
Colour by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011