Yet another movie about football hooligans probably won’t appeal to much of the cinema-going public, but there’s way more going on in Awaydays than a bunch of violent oiks in bovver boots. This film is actually more a poignant and tragic love story than a straight depiction of violence.
It’s 1979 and 19-year-old Paul Carty (Nicky Bell) is football and music mad. He’d love to run with The Pack, a notorious gang of Liverpool fans, famous as much for their outfits as their violent clashes before, during and after matches. But in order to join them he has to be accepted by them and pack leader Godden (Stephen Graham), and Godden sees him as an outsider. Then one night Carty runs into Elvis (Liam Boyle) at an Echo And The Bunnymen gig and his life suddenly changes, for Elvis is an aloof and enigmatic member of The Pack and he can get Carty an introduction to the gang. Soon Carty is in the thick of it, fighting with the best of them and getting closer and closer to Elvis. But, Elvis has two secrets, secrets that would tear him apart if anyone knew, so when he decides he has to confide in Carty he puts them both in terrible danger.
Although the utterly senseless violence of The Pack is sickening and doesn’t make for great cinema, if you can get beyond that and concentrate on the growing bond and rather complicated relationship between Carty and Elvis, you’ll find much to impress. This is the real heart of Awaydays and writer Kevin Sampson (from his book of the same name) skilfully creates a friendship of real substance and emotion – brittle and sometimes confrontational, but strong and enduring.
Liam Boyle as tortured soul Elvis, dreaming of a better life anywhere but in Liverpool, perfectly captures Elvis’s frustration and yearning. The mighty Mersey and the even mightier ships that sail down it are used throughout the film as a metaphor for escape and release and the scenes shot at the river’s edge are probably the most memorable of the film. Unfortunately, however, the accents are so thick subtitles would not have been a bad idea as deciphering the dialogue is difficult, but then there is the glorious soundtrack of The Bunnymen, Magazine, The Cure and Joy Division to listen to when you give up on the words.