Newcastle

October 30th, 2008 Film, Personalities, Xpress

You’re struck while watching Newcastle by how the filmmaker must have grown up in the titular east coast town and obviously loves it, who knows the local landmarks and icons from an insider’s perspective, who knows how Novacastrians talk, act, think, surf and lose their virginity.

So Xpress is confused after we’re told we’re interviewing writer director Dan Castle and a guy with an American accent comes on the phone. As if the name isn’t prophetic enough, he’s actually from Newcastle — a small river town in Delaware, USA.

There are two immediate problems. How does an American create something so rooted in the lifeblood of a town and true to life? And how does a guy in his early forties convincingly spend time circumnavigating the heads of 17 year olds.

The answer to the first, according to Castle, was his history with the town. "I got inspired when I saw Newcastle for the first time seven years ago. I told an AD from my last short film I wanted to make a teen surf film and he said ‘you’ve got to check out Newcastle’. I thought I’d go take a look and then go back to LA and find somewhere over there to write a story about, but that weekend changed my life. We stayed near the Novacastrian Hotel and I lived each day like a Novacastrian would. I loved it and thought I would have never left.

"But I realised that wasn’t true and I probably would have been some little shit head who couldn’t wait to get out of here and that’s where the seed of the character came from."

"I’m an overgrown seventeen year old," Castle continues when we ask about the age disparity between himself and his subjects. "I don’t have a family and I live a pretty vicarious lifestyle so I’ve never had to grown up, I spend a lot of time doing what I did when I was a kid. I never lost the sense of that place in my life and I feel very connected to it.

"I really wanted to make sure the film was told from the perspective of a seventeen year old. People who get that get it right away and then watch the film through that filter. Then as [lead character] Jesse grows his sense of the place and the perspective shifts and he sees how wonderful the town is. And people who don’t get the film don’t get that at all, I don’t think they get the vantage point and they didn’t know how to walk into this movie."

How you walk into Newcastle might make all the difference. It’s the story of a local lad, his friends and family, girls, surfing, the shadow of his failed older brother, the inexorable pull of maturity, the pressure to prove himself and the wisdom of his elders.

Castle assembles a bright young cast who all do a good job, although the happenstance of the film might meander a little slowly for some audiences, ironically for many younger viewers who are too used to the Xbox360 style of filmmaking Hollywood’s conditioned us all to.

Newcastle’s other hurdle might be the very frame of mind Castle talks about. You might find yourself nodding knowingly, maybe feeling a tear rise as people give voice to your own fears and hopes. You might yawn and roll your eyes, wishing you could revisit these self indulgent little princes and princesses when they have a mortgage to pay and mouths of their own to feed so you can ask them if they finally understand how hard life can be.

Depending on your point of view, your age and too many other factors and life experiences to list, Newcastle could either be The Year My Voice Broke for the 21st century or as boring and vacuous as less airbrushed episode of Beverley Hills 90210.


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