This is the nearest thing we’re going to get to a Children’s Film Foundation movie this century – though it has a potentially trauma-inducing premise, it goes out of its way to be harmless and undisturbing, setting out not to tangle timelines or address the issue of fate vs free will but to put a thoughtless, selfish teenage protagonis through a runaround which will make him a better person even if he ends up dead. Which, given the general tone of the film, scarcely seems likely.
Tim Edge (Harry Jarvis) has been a bit of a git to his Mum (Kirsty Dillon) and sister Shona (Fabienne Piolini-Castle) since his Dad died and is furthermore a stencil-based graffiti artist and all-round grump who wanders off when the school visit the Natural History ‘Snoozeum’ and stray through a tunnel into a facility where scientist Lena Eidelhorn (Siobhan Redmond) is demonstrating a new contraption that can read any living thing and determine how long they’ll stay alive. For a lark, Tim disrupts the demonstration … and the digital display tells him he has two hours to live. It’s a slight problem that at this point in the film, Tim has been such a dick – the things we’re supposed to like about him (his art) are just about as bad as his obvious negative behaviour – that audiences might want him to have less time to go since that’d mean we wouldn’t have to put up with him. Obviously, he fits in some redemption – but mostly he drags his pals Vic (Ella-Rae Smith) and Alf (Alhaji Fofana) around town, with a couple of goons (Seann Walsh, Marek Larwood) on his tracks, and ticks off his fairly unambitious bucket list, which extends (rather credibly) to a snog with the school glamour girl (Leila Yvetta), conquering his fear of heights, and riding a motorcycle. Oh, and he has a guilt twinge about a mean trick he’s played on Shona and sets out to boost her confidence at a poetry slam.
Keith Allen has an odd, phoned-in part as Eidelhorn’s dodgy backer – a British bankrupt who poses as a New York bigshot – but Redmond is exactly in the spirit of the crackpots the likes of Patrick Troughton or Graham Crowden used to play in kids’ films. Larwood, whose act is too close to Matt Lucas’s for comfort, and Walsh bumble about as easily-fooled childish adults – and Smith works hard to pretend she’s not a knockout as the wallflower with feelings for the self-involved clod. Also in the mix is a strange sub-plot about a weird alien pet kept in a matchbox, which no one seems to think is odd. A get-out clause is well-established, but there’s a sequel hook at the end – prompting the possibility that this might spin out into being a kid-level equivalent to the Crank series. Written by Roland Moore; directed by D.James Newton, who was a teen actor himself (on, ahem, Eldorado).