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Filth: James McAvoy and the Truthful Title

July 23, 2014

Filth movie poster

There hasn’t been a more self-explanatory title since Snakes on a Plane. Filth is a nasty little film that is based on a wonderfully nasty Irvine Welsh book. It features drug use, nudity, murder, rape, infidelity, abuse, profanity, phone sex and more drug use. It is depravity buoyed by a demented yet likable performance by James McAvoy. He owns the screen and you can tell he enjoyed every moment of it.

Filth James McAvoy

I don’t know how I could recommend Filth to non-cinephiles but I will fully praise McAvoy’s performance to everyone.  McAvoy navigates the world with a mixture of angst, anger and feigned bluster. Mentally, he has gone off the rails and as the film progresses you begin to feel bad for the guy as his story becomes rather tragic.  McAvoy juggles the mental collapse well and remains sympathetic even as he is doing terrible things. This isn’t a stylized bad guy who is evil to be cool. He is a sad man who needs help and will never get it. I’m happy that McAvoy nailed this role after trying something different with Welcome to the Punch and Trance.

The film revolves around McAvoy’s character doing every bad deed in the book whilst angling for a promotion to become Detective Inspector. He has a beautiful family (whom you only see in dreams or hallucinations), suffers from bipolar disorder and is haunted by flashbacks of a young child. Something has gone mentally haywire and he becomes a drug addled Shakespearean villain. He manipulates, lies and coerces in order to get what he wants but his tenuous grip on reality seems to be going down the tube with each line of cocaine he snorts.

Filth Mcavoy

The supporting cast is wonderful. Eddie Marsan, Jamie Bell, Jim Broadbent, Shirley Henderson, Joanne Froggatt and Imogen Poots all play various foils and marks who inhabit the drug hazed world. They journey with McAvoy down a rabbit hole of insanity that makes Edinburgh, Scotland seem like a layer of hell. In one of the my favorite scenes Imogen Poots uncovers McAvoy’s true character and you are able to look back at the rest of the film with new eyes. It is a solid moment that shows how versatile the two actors are. It also helps you understand why he does what he does.

Filth Imogen Poots

Filth is a daring and old school film. There is a darkness to it and there is nothing likable about the main character.  It is tragedy mixed with dark humor that is made palatable by James McAvoy’s performance. This film isn’t for everyone and becomes very bleak. However, if you appreciate Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) and brave performances check out Filth. 

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 23, 2014 4:58 pm

    McAvoy’s insane in this, but I think that’s what works so well about it. We hardly ever see him act like this, so that when he does, not only is it a total surprise, but it also makes us realize that there’s more to him than just another handsome face. Good review.


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