Shed Your Tears And Walk Away (tbc)

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The ViewChristchurch Review

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Review byMatthew Turner11/06/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 90 mins

Deeply personal and utterly heartbreaking, this is a powerful and compelling documentary that demands to be seen.

What's it all about?
Shed Your Tears And Walk Away began life when London-based filmmaker Jez Lewis decided to investigate why so many of his friends and acquaintances in his home town of Hebden Bridge had either committed suicide or had turned to a life of drink and drugs. Armed with a camera, Jez tracks down his old friend Graeme 'Cass' Cassidy and discovers that he's become part of a group of all-day park drinkers, despite having been given two months to live by his doctors if he doesn't stop drinking.

Over the course of a year, Cass attempts to get clean, eventually checking into a clinic in London, but the fact that he frequently has to go back to Hebden Bridge for his friends' funerals constantly puts his recovery in jeopardy. Meanwhile, Jez also spends time with young scaffolder Liam, who's attempting to kick heroin after the recent death of his brother and with Cass's best friend Michael 'Silly' Silcock, an ex-soldier who turned to drink and drugs to numb horrific memories from his time in the Foreign Legion but who finds his demons returning as soon as he tries to get clean.

The Good
As with the similar spate of young deaths in Bridgend, the tragedy of Hebden Bridge (jokingly described by one resident as “a drug town with a tourist problem”) suggests a story waiting to be uncovered, but the reality is an all-too familiar hell of drink and drug addiction. As such, Lewis's personal connection both to Hebden Bridge itself and to several of the victims serves two important functions: it gives him a level of trust and openness with his subjects that would be denied to any other filmmaker and it also gives the story a personal connection that is utterly heartbreaking.

The Great
Like charismatic Cass and sardonic Silly, the film isn't without moments of dark humour but the struggles of both men to give up their addictions are almost unbearable to watch at times, especially when they have their inevitable relapses. Lewis's approach is admirable throughout; you never once, for example, suspect that he cares about his footage more than he does about his friends.

Worth seeing?
Shed Your Tears And Walk Away is an important, deeply personal and utterly compelling documentary that packs a powerful emotional punch. Highly recommended.

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