A complex father/son relationship is viewed through a raw depiction of prison life in the riveting Starred Up. Pitched somewhere between Scum and a British version of A Prophet, this is the most powerful and assured film of David Mackenzie’s career.

Jack O’Connell has some of the arrogant swagger and tightly coiled menace of a young James Cagney as Eric, a teenage young offender who is prematurely moved to an adult jail or ‘starred up’. Aggressive and unpredictable, he is soon armed and dangerous. The other prisoners include Neville (Ben Mendelsohn), the father he has not seen since he was five. A weary, inarticulate veteran of the system, Neville seem uncertain whether to protect his offspring or join in punishing him.

Shot on location at Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast and Maze Long Kesh, Lisburn and working from a first screenplay by prison system therapist Jonathan Asser, Starred Up feels totally authentic. Tightly edited but with the space to embrace the lives of other inmates, Starred Up is a raw, compelling drama that only grows more compelling as it unfolds.

Allan Hunter
Screen International

‘Some years from now, Starred Up ... will be remembered as the film that announced a new star, Jack O’Connell’
The Hollywood Reporter

‘This viciously compelling prison drama isn’t just a moving father/son story but an indelible piece of behind-bars sociology’