It’s always odd seeing a location you know well thrust onto the silver screen. In this case, it’s the town of Ilkley in West Yorkshire, where my partner is from and about 40 minutes East of my current abode.
The location is the setting of Say Your Prayers, the new film from writer and director Harry Michell (best known for his acting roles in Devils and The English Game, both TV shows).
The film sees former Harry Potter star Harry Melling as Tim and Tom Brooke (“Preacher (TV)”, “The Death Of Stalin”) as Vic, orphaned brothers who are turned into radical Christian hitmen by Father Enoch, Derek Jacobi (“The Host”, “Murder On The Orient Express”).
They are sent to the Ilkley Literary Festival to assassinate Professor John Huxley, Roger Allam (“Mr. Holmes”, “Endeavour (TV)”), a famed atheist writer who is giving a talk.
However, the pair end up killing someone who is attending the festival and looks like Huxley, but not Huxley, by mistake. This means Father Enoch must come down and change the plan. He puts the brothers on a path of Christian Fundamentalism, to kill Huxley whilst he’s giving his main talk.
Whilst at the festival though Tim, who is treated like a child, meets Imelda, Vinette Robinson (“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”, “Doctor Who (TV)”), who, it transpires, is in a relationship with Huxley, not that he knows this at first.
It quickly becomes obvious that Tim is having doubts, he doesn’t want to go through with this latest endeavour, he just wants to go home. Father Enoch pushes the brothers into it, their inept ways however, makes the attempt farcical at best.
Michell and co-writer Jamie Fraser (“Living the Dream (TV)”, “Pillow Talk (Short)”) have created a very British, darkly comic film. Whilst the movie obviously has mentions of faith and atheism it shies away from being deliberately antagonistic.
Instead Michell gets the best from his actors, letting them have the room to shine. Both Melling and Brooke grasp this opportunity with both hands. Melling is delightful; shy, quiet, thoughtful and with simplistic needs, whilst Brooke is the polar opposite; loud, brash, brave and daring, he is quick to temper, attacking a man in a pub for laughing and using the words god and jesus, taking the lords name in vain.
Jacobi meanwhile is menacing as the Father, a diminutive figure he has a raw power behind him that gives him a frightening appearance.
Perhaps the one character I didn’t quite get on with was DCI Brough, Anna Maxwell Martin (“The Personal History of David Copperfield”, “Code 404 (TV)”), the police officer chasing the brothers for the initial murder.
The character sticks out like a sore thumb, swearing her way through the film and threatening anyone who so much as looks at her. However, with no back story and seemingly no reason for it, it’s a touch jarring. That said, she does get some great one-liners.
Say Your Prayers is a film to seek out; it’s darkly funny with stand-out performances, great directing and, and I may be biased here, a lovely setting (though not all of it is Ilkley).
Say Your Prayers will be released on demand 28th September.
28th September 2020
THE QUICK SELL
Two orphaned brothers turned radical Christian hitmen venture to Ilkley under the instruction of Father Enoch to assassinate a famed atheist writer.