Written, directed, produced and edited by Dan Hartley, Lad: A Yorkshire Story is a UK indie film, the story of one youth’s journey from boy to adult over a tumultuous and tragic few weeks.
Tom Proctor (Bretten Lord) is a normal 13 year old boy – he’s doing okay at school, learns about girls and beer from his elder brother Nick (Rob Hayes) and enjoys getting out into the countryside, the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. His mother Sarah (Nancy Clarkson) has a part time job in a shop when not looking after the family, while father David (Liam Thomas) works around the mines and shares hobbies with Tom as they seek out precious rocks on the hills. But tragedy strikes this most normal of families when David dies suddenly from a heart attack, leaving Sarah a widow and Tom totally distraught – angry and unable to come to terms with his grief. The loss of the father also results in a loss of income and likely repossession of their home if the mortgage payments are not made. And the bank is thoroughly unsympathetic. Tom thinks he has a solution, or at least some payback, for this sad situation but there are consequences. He decides to take matters into his own hands and seek some sort of retribution for the potential loss of his home by stealing a tractor and spraying manure all over the bank. He gets slapped with a Community Service Order which involves ten weeks helping Al Thorpe (Alan Gibson) with his duties. Al is a ranger, and so the landscape becomes a learning environment for Tom. Could this be the new start that he needs? After all, his brother has joined the army and his mother is about to acquire new skills that will hopefully result in the employment she needs to in order to bring in the finances that will save the family home.
Dedicated to the memory of Yorkshire Dales’ National Park Warden Al Boughen, upon whom the story of the film is partly based, Lad: A Yorkshire Story sets its tale in a contemporary rural environment that is very much of its place. Unlike films that use their location and sense of community to address particular concerns, such as Brassed Off (1996), Lad: A Yorkshire Story approaches matters from a more personal character based perspective (not to say there isn’t a brief background brass band playing On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at to add to the sense of location though). A coming of age drama, Tom develops as an adult through specific encounters that recall elements of Kes (1969) at times – as he discovers positive aspects to his life, despite the tragic circumstances. The landscape and photography are very easy on the eye and the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales becomes an integral part of both the story and characterisation, connecting the relationships between the protagonists and the way that families integrate within their rural communities. When Tom’s brother Nick joins the army it shows, in many ways, as much a sense of him departing from his environment as it is by saying farewell to his family as he endeavours to start a new chapter in his life.
Screenings of the film will be taking place in the UK’s fifteen national parks this Easter, offering a good opportunity to see the film in a venue that’s just a little bit different to your standard multiplex. Lad: A Yorkshire Story is a solid and enjoyable watch that tugs at the heartstrings when needed but has a positive overall outlook. This is enhanced by consistently strong and engaging performances from the cast of newcomers. A welcome debut feature.