Review: A Sense Of Freedom
DVD: A Sense Of Freedom (1979)
If Life on Mars taught us anything it’s that the 70’s was a brown, cold and wet decade. Kids played football in the street, the pubs were thick with smoke and the police dished out their own brand of justice to get the job done. A Sense of Freedom does nothing to dispel these beliefs.
A Sense of Freedom tells the true story of notorious Scottish gangster Jimmy Boyle. In fact the movie is based on the book that he wrote whilst in prison. I didn’t really know much about Jimmy Boyle and from what I’ve read about him he had been charged and cleared of murder twice when he was barely into his twenties. It’s fairly safe to say that he wasn’t a very nice person.
Jimmy carries out a string of assaults and heinous crimes before he inevitably gets sent to prison. As you can imagine, life is no bed of roses for Jimmy as he comes to terms with solitary confinement and daily beatings from the guards.
David Hayman is superb in the role of Jimmy. Although only small in stature he delivers a powerful towering performance and the movie is worth watching just for him alone. Although it is hard to find any sympathy for his situation because of the pain and suffering he has inflicted upon others, you do end up feeling a degree of empathy and this is all due to his portrayal of the character.
John Mackenzie, who would later go onto to direct the classic British gangster movie The Long Good Friday, presents a brutally shocking representation of prison life. As you would imagine a Sense of Freedom is a grim and gritty movie which explores some of the worst elements of humanity. Jimmy is a despicable person who is prone to explosive violence but then this is the environment that he inhabits and he often gives as good as he gets. In one particular scene a prison officer questions whether they have turned Jimmy into an animal or has he turned them into animals?
I find prison dramas such as Scum and Hunger fascinating and enjoy stories based on real life notorious characters like Chopper and McVicar. I found A Sense of Freedom to be a really compelling movie. It’s not enjoyable in the traditional sense of the word because it is very hard to watch at times due to the subject matter, but if you’re a fan of these type of films then I would definitely recommend you take a look.
This two disc release features the original version of the movie and also a dubbed version. Bizarrely a lot of the dialogue was replaced as I imagine it would have been deemed too hard to understand the broad Scottish accents. It reminds me of when Trainspotting was released in the USA with subtitles.
There is also a documentary called Sarah’s Story. This is a really interesting feature about Jimmy Boyle’s wife. Sarah tells how she met Jimmy in prison and how they went onto open a special unit to help offenders and recovering drug addicts offering them art therapy workshops.