2. Little Voice (1998)
Easily the most underrated of Mark Herman’s releases is his 1998 adaptation Little Voice, in which Jane Horrocks (pictured above) takes on the personas of famed stage and screen icons to transcend her own frightening shyness in a tale less about overcoming obstacles in the search of a pot of gold, and more about how dangerous and out-of-reach that pursuit can often be.
Featuring one of the best performances in contemporary British cinema from Brenda Blethyn as Little Voice’s mother, and one of Michael Caine’s best performances from this era in his career, Little Voice is an utterly watchable deconstruction of the American Dream, all told from a small corner of the North of England (Scarborough).
Though more specific in terms of locality and culture than The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas‘ more universally accessible material, Little Voice is an unmissable piece of cinema from a director whose work was never as concise and appealing; a humourous take on classism and dreams of superstardom led by an ensemble of acting masterclasses.
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1. Brassed Off (1996)
After a swing and a miss with Blame It on the Bellboy, Mark Herman returned to his Yorkshire roots for his 1996 release Brassed Off, an at-times comedic but ever so powerful portrayal of life in the midst of mining colliery closures during Thatcher’s Britain. It was a home run.
Brassed Off was a film that spoke so intimately to the people of the day and still resonates as a machine for empathy some quarter of a century later, its lead performance from the late, great Pete Postlethwaite being pitch perfect (pun intended) as Herman subverted the “underdog sports hero” narrative of a brass band competing in a national competition to drive home his most heartfelt and well established piece to date. If Herman’s style and artistic career was to be summed up in one film, it would be through Brassed Off, the filmmaker’s unique perspective of a relatively small group of people made into an opinion-shattering, cultural touchstone of a movie.
Brassed Off is made with so much love that it radiates from the screen, the culture and the people of Herman’s own life projected into this affecting story that anyone can relate to. There are simply too few filmmakers who have made films as good as this, and certainly not very many who have done so from such a perspective as Herman has. Brassed Off is a classic of British cinema and the most complete, compelling and unique work of its director’s career.
Now without a release in over a decade, we’re excited to see what Herman does next. But what do you think? Would you have ordered these films differently? Let us know in the comments, and remember to keep up with us on Twitter.