Ashes and Sand

A gang of fifteen-year-old girls run rampant in Ashes and Sand, a silly movie adapted by Judy Upton from her own play. On stage, it could probably make for a decent character study of its two main characters, but when moving to film, one needs to add a lot more in terms of plotting and action. The result, directed by Bob Bladgen (Long Haul) is quite nonsensical at times, and although there is a lot of stuff happening on screen, can be maddeningly dull. It's a real shame for actor Lara Belmont (Bread and Roses), who made a scathing debut in The War Zone. Belmont does most of the hyperactive overacting. Her character, Hayley, is the central figure in the film.

Hayley is the alpha female in her gang. She mocks other students, and preys on older men at night. One of the girls pretends to like the guy, and when they start making out, the others attack. These attacks draw the interest of the police, and Daniel (Nick Moran, The Musketeer, White Bits) and Dawn (Victoria Scarborough, Charlotte Gray, Hollow Reed) come to investigate. Daniel is a pretty boy, and the sparks fly between him and Hayley. For both, it is a taboo obsession that they cannot control. Preventing people from getting to the heart of this doomed relationship is a lot of filler material that is sometimes a chore to decipher.

All of Hayley's friends have an overwhelming desire to leave Brighton. Hayley wants to steal enough money to get to Bali. When she dreams about Bali, Bladgen rips away the brutish exterior and shows her as the child she is. Daniel is starting over, flirting with Dawn, until Hayley arrives. Her age scares him, so he hesitates, although the urge to act is incredibly strong (hey, it is Lara Belmont after all). As Hayley and her friends move away from muggings and into drugs, the group begins to fracture. They mock Hayley for not consummating her relationship with Daniel, and Hayley becomes increasingly frustrated and unstable.

The last third of the act takes a dive for the worse. Emotions for Hayley and Daniel spiral out of control, leading them both to do some pretty irrational things with dire consequences. Miscommunication and backstabbing makes things worse. Needless to say, there is a lot of screaming and cursing on Hayley's behalf. Daniel's pseudo-relationship with her becomes public, and he applies for a transfer. Bladgen films much of Ashes and Sand at night, which does add atmosphere, but he skimps on the lighting so it can be hard to see what is happening. In fact, gleaning the aforementioned plot can be pretty difficult, because Ashes and Sand does get extremely dull. Moran seems befuddled most of the time, and as a policeman, Daniel is clearly worse than incompetent. Moran and Scarborough are not engaging to watch on screen. Hayley's friends are simple thugs. Belmont does register with the audience. Bladgen and Upton clearly portray Hayley as a girl with serious issues, and Belmont acts the part, but in the context of the film, it comes across as ridiculous.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 48 minutes, Not Rated but contains language, sensuality, teen drinking, and violence, an easy R.

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