Meet Pursuit Delange is a very special British indie film. It doesn’t feature cockney gangsters, period costumes, or a grim depiction of working life in the North. Instead it’s a semi-autobiographical, occasionally surreal, very British, musical comedy which combines a quality cast with heartfelt passion.
Set in the London district of Kew, the film follows the trials and tribulations of lead character Pursuit Delange (Played by Ben Starr) and his friends Jonty Smith (Jason Flemyng) and Charles Itchy Forrester (Robert Portal). Written and directed by Howard Webster, the film is loosely based on his own experiences and a semi-biographical column he used to write under the same title. It’s been a labour of love for two years to make the film, and the quality of the cast and cinematography do a great job of masking the fact the film was made on a very low budget.
The titular Pursuit has spent years attempting to write and sell a novel, and in the meantime has set up residence in a ramshackle groundsman’s hut at Kew Cricket Club with private school chum Jonty, who mainly spends his time stoned. Itchy Forrester attempts to help him with a job as a trainee journalist which involves tricking veteran actor and celebrity Sir Edward Mead (played by Peter Bowles). And in the surreal ensuing chaos, there’s an incident in a phone box, a death caused by knock-off viagra, some surprisingly philosophical musings on life, a smattering of musical numbers, and a male Bull Mastiff named Audrey. And appearances by brothers Richard and Fred Fairbrass, better known as Right Said Fred.
With so many elements to fit into the running time of 108 minutes, the various plot threads are held together by the performances of relative newcomer Starr and the experienced Portal, whose Forrester character is lifted above a stereotype by both circumstances and some of the funniest, most scathing, and quotable lines of the film.
Those lines demonstrate some of the highlights of the film, which provides some great comedy set-pieces and great dialogue to accompany them.
The most common comparison will inevitably be Withnail & I, which also combined a talented cast, English comedy and an element of debauchery. And both follow a somewhat episodic structure which in the case of Meet Pursuit Delange, is based on the chapters of the book which seems could inevitably be produced by Pursuit following the closing titles.
If you’re not a fan of musical numbers, then you should still find plenty to enjoy. The soundtrack is not only well composed by Grammy Award winner Tim Garland, but the lyrics relate back to the overall theme of the film, which is that ‘it’s not what you do, it’s why you do it’. That philosophy seems particularly insightful when it’s delivered by British acting legend Peter Bowles. There are potentially some interludes which slightly outstay their welcome, but nothing that detracts too much from the film overall.
The cast also includes a range of talent including Tom Chambers, Larry Lamb, Stephanie Leonidas, Colin Salmon and Hannah Waddingham. And the London setting of Kew also plays a large part, with some great choices of both locations and cinematography highlighting the setting.
There are some elements which feel slightly under-explored. The presence of Richard Fairbrass as a guardian angel, and a dream sequence/spiritual intervention both feel like they could have been either expanded or cut. But given the ambition and accomplishment to pull off a genuinely interesting and entertaining film, it’s easy to forgive potentially 2-3 minutes of somewhat extraneous material.
Having been selected for both the Crystal Palace International Film Festival and the Bahamas International Film Festival, there seems to be increasing interest and the film. It was already the hit of the Raindance Film Festival with an additional screening required due to demand.
And it’s not surprising given the cast, the quality of some of the dialogue and situations Pursuit finds himself in, and the fact that a truly uplifting and entertaining British independent musical-comedy is an incredibly rare thing.
Meet Pursuit Delange will be shown at the Crystal Palace International Film Festival (Nov 6-28, 2015) and the Bahamas International Film Festival (Dec, 2015). For more information on screenings and releases, check out the official movie website www.pursuitdelange.com