The teenage years of the Smiths frontman are boiled down to a sentimental kitchen-sink drama that’s elevated by an honest performance from its lead.
orrissey gets the cuddly Billy Liar treatment in this weirdly generic movie about his early teen life in Manchester that sometimes seems to be straightforwardly channelling the kitchen-sink spirit of 60s British cinema that Morrissey famously adored – but with much less of the acid irony and alienation that he extracted from it.
It’s decently and honestly acted by Jack Lowden, who keeps the film alive, but it somehow winds up being a story about always following your dream and never giving up. There is even has an inspirational speech from Morrissey’s mum.
The darker side to his personality is uneasily acknowledged by showing a book in his teenage room about the Moors murderers. His mate Anji (a nice performance from Katherine Pearce) picks this book up and asks Steven if he can imagine them “like that”. In the next moment she makes it clear she means imagine being the victims not the murderers, though it’s a microsecond of ambiguity that I think brings us closer to Morrissey’s troubled soul than anything else.
The film is interesting on the importance of grim and boring work as something that inspires daydreams of escape, and while doing his awful day job in a tax office, Morrissey looks a bit like Tony Hancock in The Rebel or even an unbald Philip Larkin simmering in the university library.
Peter Bradshaw , Guardian