‘Happy New Year, Colin Burstead’ Review: Ben Wheatley’s Fraught Family Drama

Colin Burstead rents a large estate to host a large family get together. It’s immediately obvious that there are tensions between the various members of the family, all of which is exacerbated by the unwelcome arrival of Colin’s mysterious brother David.
The film whips sharply between scenes, cross-cutting conversations. The effect is a relentless energy that conveys the hectic tension of a large get-together. Very rapidly we are familiarised with who hates who, who owes who money, who secretly loves who, who’s dying, who’s heartbroken, but revelations are meted out throughout the film.
At times the film’s plot resembles a Shakespearean tragedy. The exiled Prince confronting his jilted lover before plotting his return to the castle to face his brother. It’s a decently simply set up that works because of Wheatley’s eloquent script.
It’s a character-driven film and performances are excellent all around. Neil Maskel plays the titular Colin with a quiet sadness and repressed rage that makes him a compelling presence. The entire cast is natural and hilarious. Standouts include Hayley Squires, Doon Mackichan, Charles Dance and Asim Chaudhry. There are no caricatures just funny, relatable, tragic characters.
Happy New Year, Colin Burstead is a lively family drama. It’s a change of pace for Wheatley, but not a change of pacing. It’s an exciting and tense story of a family torn apart but jealousy, greed, and resentment. It’s one of the funniest films of the year but also one of the most affecting and even frightening.
Five Stars

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