Here’s my theory about Filth – it’s a gay movie that doesn’t look like one. Indeed on a cursory glance you’d be more likely to view it as a homophobic and potentially transphobic film. However deeper down there’s more LGBT interest than it might first appear.
James McAvoy plays Edinburgh policeman Bruce Robertson, a real shit of a man who’s racist, homophobic, takes drugs, drinks too much, has sex with any woman who will have him and thinks nothing of destroying other people. He makes lewd, anonymous phone call to his friend Bladesey’s wife, while being a bit of a playground bully to the man himself – despite the fact they are supposedly best friends.
After a murder is committed Bruce is put in charge of the investigation, which puts him in a good position from an upcoming promotion. However he’s not about to let anything stop his career progression and so sets about ensuring his colleagues’ promotion possibilities are destroyed, no matter what it takes.
As the film progresses though, we learn that Bruce isn’t just an evil bastard – he’s dealing with serious mental health issues and his grip on reality is coming loose.
A film about such a morally repugnant character shouldn’t work, but thanks to plenty of humour, James McAvoy’s innate charm and the increasingly complex picture of Bruce it paints, Filth is a surprisingly watchable and entertaining movie, even if it’s often crude and filled with morally reprehensible characters.
It’s also a surprisingly LGBT movie, as long as you know what you’re looking for. There are obvious things, such as Bruce using the fact one of his colleagues is metrosexual to set him up and ruin an incredibly homophobic cops’ chances of promotion. However although slightly hidden from view, when combined with other things such as the negative ways Bruce talks about gay people (although it’s important to realise what he’s actually saying) and what happens just before Bruce finds himself desperately wanting sex, it reflect his fears over his sexuality.
His possible LGBT leanings do become somewhat clearer at the end, although still mired in his confusion over the difference between gender, sexuality and other things. However it would be easy to take this revelations as a token twist unless you see it in the full context of the film and how so much of what Bruce does merely reflects the things he’s terrified of, as well as his own deteriorating mental state.
It would be quite easy to miss and to be honest I wasn’t entirely sure whether I was just reading things into the movie, but then it was confirmed to me in the special features. It appears several things that would have made Bruce’s issues clearer were toned down for the final film. However in the alternate/extended scene there’s one thing that makes things abundantly clear. In the film, the relevant scene just shows Bruce in a toilet giving a man money, and in the next scene you suddenly realise what he was paying for. However in the extended scenes it’s set up so it looks like he’s just paid for sex, as he kisses and/or hugs the man.
You can understand why it was toned down, as it may have caused confusion when you realise what he was actually paying for, but it does underline what’s actually going on the movie. (And just in case you’ve seen the film and think I’m talking rubbish about Bruce being worried that he may be gay, James McAvoy has confirmed it in interviews).
It certainly adds an interesting layer to a movie that only has minor LGBT interest on the surface, but which the more you think about it, the more intriguing it is. And it really is worth watching twice as it’s one of those films where once you’ve seen the end it illuminates so much about what happened earlier.
Overall Verdict: A film that might initially seem to just be about terrible people doing horrible things, but Filth reveals a lot more complexity, including some interesting LGBT themes.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac