Directed by Gillies MacKinnon
Written by Allison Humes
Pure is a captivating family drama set in the east end of London that challenges your preconceptions about drug addicts. After the death of his father, ten-year-old Paul is forced to grow up and become a caretaker of the family because his mother, Mel, is a heroin junkie. Paul just thinks she’s sick and the film opens with him preparing her “medicine,” which he’s seen her do so many times.
Mel decides she needs to quit cold turkey after giving a friend a fatal overdose. Paul helps his mother by locking her in her room. It’s a lot for a kid to deal with, especially when she curses at him and wishes that he had never been born. One night Laura, a teenage waitress that he is attracted to, innocently lures him away from the house for a bite to eat. She is pregnant again, after having her first baby taken away, and is also a junkie When Paul returns, he finds Lenny, the local pusher and an old friend of Paul’s father, has entered the house and has given Mel a fix, starting her addiction cycle anew.
The police pick up Mel in hopes that she’ll tell them about Lenny's operation, but she doesn’t. The kids are taken away from Mel and placed with the grandparents on their father’s side while she goes in for treatment. Paul doesn’t understand how his mother could choose heroin over her children, so he tries some to get a glimpse inside her world.
The film is very good on many levels. It is a well-told love story between a boy and his mother that satisfyingly concludes its plot conflicts with a believable outcome that doesn’t rely on phony melodrama and the heavy hand of the author.
All the actors are very good, especially Harry Eden who plays Paul. His performance is the lynchpin that holds the film together because we see the world through his eyes, as he unnaturally becomes a man, of the house and in the world. The women of his life, Molly Parker as Nel and Keira Knightly as Laura, have both lost their way because of their addictions. The film doesn’t preach or pass judgment on them; it offers up fair and realistic portrayals of their struggles, making the lessons more meaningful.
Pure has played at film festivals and was released in the UK in 2003. I’m not sure why it took so long to get to America. Admittedly, the film has depressing aspects, but it always will. It’s not a date film, but for anyone looking to be told an intelligent story with real characters portrayed by quality actors, this is a very good choice.