The burden of being moral in Bypass
by Saara Vahermägi
- VENICE 2014: Duane Hopkins’ second feature explores the conscience of a family that is trying to overcome its criminal fate
Tim (George MacKey) is a good-natured, sensitive young man who is trapped in a harsh environment that doesn’t suit him – he is striving for a better life, but without a mother or a father, and with a younger sister to take care of, he and his older brother Greg (Benjamin Dilloway) try to make ends meet by living a life of crime. One day, Greg gets caught and goes to jail, and Tim is left alone to support their sister Helen (Lara Peake). Aside from that, he is also sick and doesn’t know what’s wrong with him. The one positive thing in Tim’s life is his girlfriend Lilly (Charlotte Spencer). But when Lilly tells him she is pregnant, he crumbles under the pressure. He does not want to be a father in a world that is so broken.
Is it possible to overcome a traumatic past? Is morality a luxury? These are the questions that Duane Hopkins asks in his latest film, Bypass [+see also:
interview: Duane Hopkins
interview: Samm Haillay
film profile], which premiered in the Orizzonti programme of the Venice Film Festival on 2 September.
In the midst of his austere life, and despite his criminality, Tim is portrayed as almost angelic at times – as Hopkins has stated, “Tim is an innocent in a guilty environment.” On a smaller scale, this also applies to his brother Greg and his girlfriend Lilly. There are commendable morals and kindness inherent in Bypass’s main characters, but it is constantly suffocated by the harshness of life.
The film flows at a calm, dream-like pace – Tim’s reality is mixed with visions of his past, as memories of his mother and father haunt him in his day-to-day life. This sense of reality being a dream (or rather a nightmare) is reinforced by the meditative music by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans.
Bypass does not give clear answers to the questions it poses, but it does end with a surprise – contrary to the bleakness of the majority of the film, it ends on an unexpected note of hope.