Eric Love (Jack O’Connell) is a 19 year old violent and angry young man. The film opens with his transfer to prison with the prison guards making sure he knows that things will be different there, essentially stripping him of his identity.
It doesn’t take long however for Love to rebel and we see the real violent streak in him which both terrifies and excites the audience. It is after this episode that we are introduced to Neville Love (Ben Mendelsohn) who just happens to be Eric’s father. From the beginning you can see there is no real relationship between these two men but Neville is well respected within the prison and as such is looking out for his son, possibly out of guilt for not being there for him throughout his childhood?
Eric is sent to mandatory group counselling sessions with an innovative therapist who believes he can help him. The therapy is working to some degree and everything is put on the line. One of the more interesting storylines explored is how involved should a therapist get in his patients care. Eric is a man who doesn’t let you in easily but when he does you get everything, violent outbursts and all. Ultimately this is what leads to him being kicked out of the programme.
This is not just a film about a young adult and struggles adapting to life inside an adult prison. More than that, it sets out to expose how corrupt the prison system in the UK is or at least can be. Throughout the film we see that certain inmates control the prison authorities, prison guards try to murder an inmate and make it look like suicide, and there is many a beating that goes on too. Then of course you have the prison guards who are in the pocket of the “top men” among the inmates. If you didn’t know how the prison system worked beforehand, you will now.
Throughout the film, all cast members gave sterling performances. None shone through like Eric Love though. Jack O’Connell took on the role of Eric and gave it everything he had. He was for me, authentic, believable and as the credits rolled at the end I sat wondering what would happen to him next. The sign of a good character and a good movie.