HAPPY NEW YEAR, COLIN BURSTEAD gets 7.5/10 New year, not-so-new you

Directed by Ben Wheatley

Starring Neil Maskell, Sura Dohnke, Sam Riley


New Year’s celebrations are usually a fun time – but with family instead of friends, it can be a different story. Happy New Year, Colin Burstead captures the anguish, frustration, and disappointment in the family members as if it’s actually these feelings that keep them unified.

In the tradition of ‘bottle’ films (taking place entirely in one location), there’s very little escape out of this claustrophobic, tight-knit, up-close scenario, as we duck in and out from room to room along with the characters as they greet or avoid each other.

Just about everyone on the guest list is excited to see each other – Colin (Neil Maskell) and his wife Val (Sura Dohnke) have spent some time organising this family get-together at a rented country estate and hope it’ll go off without any family dramas. But the nuclear bomb in this family is brother David (Sam Riley), whose presence is little appreciated, though he is expected to arrive as he was (unbeknownst to all) invited by his sister, Gini (Hayley Squires).

Writer-director Ben Wheatley has worked wonders with a limited cast and setting before (A Field in England, Free Fire), though this time he has distilled it to an essence. No whacky experimentation or genre tropes, just family and friends going in and out of arguments, discussions, and revelations as they wait for the clocks to tick over. With more room to focus solely on dialogue, Wheatley has also scribed what is clearly his funniest film yet, helped brought to life by this flawless cast.

But despite all the grandiosity and the hysterics of the family relations, all the open wounds and dangling threads remain as little of a conclusion is felt as the new year presents itself. It’s an anti-climatic end that at least suggests the family issues are hardly likely to be resolved, which leads us into the rather excellent, yet mournful ending credits.

This was filmed under its original title, Colin You Anus (as it’s loosely based on the Shakespeare play ‘Coriolanus’), which clearly has more attention-grabbing appeal, but really, most of the folks in this film are indeed anuses. It doesn’t quite have the oomph in its finale to really cap off these intense (but mostly hilarious) family dramas, though it still stands as an all-round brilliantly written and acted piece of social-realist cinema that has quite a few more laughs than its contemporaries.


Happy New Year, Colin Burstead plays as part of the Revelation Film Festival at Luna Leederville on Friday 12th July, 4:20pm, and Tuesday 16th July, 8:30pm.

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