Image Entertainment // 2013 // 77 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Alice Nelson // February 28th, 2013
This used to be such a nice neighborhood.
Cherry Tree Lane is a very disturbing film; not a horror/slasher kind of disturbing, but a "this could actually happen in real life" kind of disturbing. Thugs bursting into the home of an unsuspecting couple and holding the occupants at knifepoint isn't too far off from events we see daily in the news. And don't expect this one to be tied up in a nice pretty bow. From beginning to end, we are in the midst of a nightmare, one where you can't help but think, "What would I do in the same situation?"
Christine (Rachael Blake) and Michael (Tom Butcher) are a suburban couple whose marriage is strained -- due in part to their wayward druggie son, Sebastian (Tom Kane). One night during dinner, three thug associates of the troubled young man burst into his parents' home and hold the pair at knifepoint -- where they wait for Sebastian to return. Rian (Jumayn Hunter, Attack the Block), Asad (Ashley Chin), and Teddy (Sonny Muslim), are intent on seeking revenge on young Sebastian, who dropped the dime on Rian's cousin, resulting in a long stretch in prison. Tied up and fearing for their son, the couple's options are few, but if they don't do something quickly all hope will be lost for the entire family.
Cherry Tree Lane is an urban thriller filmed in real time. It begins at 7:52 pm, and without any cutaways or quick edits, we experience the terrifying hours that Christine and Michael are subjected to by revenge seeking thugs. What's most interesting about this film is that son Sebastian is the catalyst, the reason behind his parents' predicament, yet he isn't even seen until the final moments of the film. He is talked about, by his folks whose relationship is strained because of his drug use, and by the thugs who blame him for a mate going to prison. If not for Sebastian, maybe none of this would have ever happened.
This British film by writer/director Paul Andrew Williams creates a frighteningly tense situation between Christine and Michael and Rian and his gang of thugs. Even though we don't initially see Sebastian, we see the results of his actions and how harmful they are to himself and his family. Williams has the audience on edge never knowing if or when Sebastian will return, on top of worrying about what will happen to him and his parents if he does come home. There is violence in Cherry Tree Lane, but most of it is understated; we see some of what Rian and his guys are capable of, but the worst of it is implied, making the film more powerful, but also more unsettling.
The stand out performance of Cherry Tree Lane has to be Jumayn Hunter as the gang's leader, Rian. His portrayal of the cold and calculating hoodlum is outstanding; he had me actively rooting for his demise. He shows Christine and Michael that he is capable of any kind of cruel act, not only in the way he treats them, but also in the iron fisted way he rules his thug minions, who follow along without question. While Teddy sees nothing wrong with what they're doing, it is Asad who shows the most humanity to the couple, and is the conscience of the crew. He also is the most wary of Rian, and is visibly shaken by a heinous act Rian commits later in the picture. Still he does nothing to stop his friend who is becoming more and more unhinged, which lessens any empathy I might've had for the kid. And just as things escalate to a fevered pitch, Sebastian comes home.
This 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen presentation shows all too clearly the stark differences between the brightly colored room where Christine and Michael are being held captive, and the darkness of what's actually happening to them. The 5.1 Dolby audio is fine, it's the heavily accented thugs that are the problem. They're a bit hard to understand, but that doesn't lessen the film's power, and neither does the hauntingly beautiful score by Aidan Lavelle. Cherry Tree Lane is a bare bones DVD that contains not a single extra.
It is a bit startling to see such unfettered violence committed by the young teens in Cherry Tree Lane, but Williams is able to portray them in a way that doesn't simply make them out to be monsters. However, he also doesn't turn them into misunderstood victims of their environment. This thriller shows in all too real terms that violence does indeed beget violence.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 77 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Not Rated