Happy New Year, Colin Burstead

Quite possibly striking a chord with anyone who has attended a family reunion, Happy New Year, Colin Burstead shows how the modern family can falter. Truly, it is impossible to return to the golden (or not) past except in memory. It is also true that social units behave predictably, despite initial best intentions.

The eponymous Colin (Neil Maskell in excellent form) is a bad-tempered man-made-good whom his father (Bill Paterson) thinks (wrongly, this time) is a soft touch for bale-out money. This is money that has been squandered on the black sheep of the family, David (Sam Riley). And as a surprise guest, guess who’s coming to this New Year reunion after years estranged from the rest of the family? Yes, it’s David, with new wife (Alexandra Maria Lara) in tow. Recipe and disaster are words that spring to mind.

In fact, it’s 15 go mad in Dorset. Colin has hired a sub-Downton Abbey pile there complete with a real Lord (Richard Glover) to welcome them. But it doesn’t start well when mum, Sandy (Doon Mackichan), trips on the threshold. Colin is unsurprised and unsympathetic. Sandy has another drink.

Gini (brilliant Hayley Squires), who has tried healing the family wounds by inviting David as a surprise for their mum, gets cast as troublemaker. She is unsurprisingly downcast. Others are disappointed, some become lachrymose, and voices are raised. Exit stage left Colin and spouse. Unmissable.

A great ensemble cast with enormous rapport connects well in this episode of life, thanks too to the direction of Ben Wheatley (Sightseers, High-Rise).

Happy New Year, Colin Burstead premiered at the London Film Festival on 11 October 2018.