Co-written by first-time director, Ryan Andrews, Elfie Hopkins is the tale of a bored teenager in a rural village, who spends her life spying on her neighbours to disguise the fact that she’s avoiding getting out into the real world. Assisted by her best – and seemingly only – friend, doting Dylan, Elfie is obsessed with acting out her detective fantasies, determined to find something to uncover, much to the annoyance of the locals and her step-mother.
Like many bored teenagers, Elfie and Dylan, played by Jamie Winstone and Aneurin Barnard, are busy doing nothing: spending much of their time getting stoned and listening to grunge music, whilst deriding everyone else. Their interest is piqued, however, by the arrival of the mysterious but glamorous Gammon family into the house next door.
Elfie Hopkins is visually striking. Andrews wanted to create a film that combined an “eclectic mix of British and American grunge”, whilst drawing on the fantasy imagery often found in British fashion magazines. And Tim Dickel and Sian Jenkins, the production designer and costume designer, respectively, collaborated well to realise this world. The Gammons arrive with a swoosh of leather, fur and peacock feathers – looking like they’ve come straight from a Vivien Westwood shoot. Contrasting dramatically with the more eccentric Elfie, the slightly nerdy Dylan and the very prim neighbours.
What follows is part detective, part comedy, part full-on slasher movie as Elfie and Dylan try to uncover the Gammons’ secret. Underpinning the story is Dylan’s very sweet, but unrequited, love for Elfie. Winstone and Barnard are a solid on screen team. There’s a lovely performance from young Gwyneth Keyworth, as the Gammon daughter, and a nicely-sinister one from Rubert Evans as the Gammon father. Ray Winstone is also in it and as imposing as ever in his role as the all-seeing Butcher Bryn.
As much as I want to adore this film, I have to say that some elements of the script and production let it down. But if you’re looking for an imaginative, easy to watch, daft-but-fun movie, then grab some popcorn and settle down.