One Chance

Art & Culture

To call One Chance manufactured and artificial is not so much an insult as a scientific description. With the thumbprints of Simon Cowell and the Weinsteins all over it, this is a film tailored to the same audience that its hero wooed in Britains Got Talent. Which doesnt make it a bad film, just not a very plausible one.

This is triumph over tragedy writ large. Paul Potts (James Corden) is a young man with an excellent voice but not a lot of luck. He lives with his mum and dad in Port Talbot, and works in Carphone Warehouse, though his dad (Colm Meaney) wants him to work in the steelworks which are the main employee of the town. Mother (Julie Walters) is more self indulgent. His best friend/boss (Mackenzie Crook) is well, hes Mackenzie Crook with a Welsh accent and a girlfriend called Hydrangea. Fortunately, Paul meets a girl online, and their budding and briefly interrupted romance is about the only bright spark in his life, as he is spurned by Pavarotti, gets hit by a car, ruptures his appendix and has a tumour on his thyroid. Theres also a completely unnecessary subplot about a school bully.

How much of this bears any relation to the life of the real Paul Potts is another matter. Yes, we know that he lived in Port Talbot and was a phone salesman, but he was also a Lib Dem councillor in Bristol (not mentioned here), and its hard to avoid the feeling that a lot of the details of his personal relationships are entirely fictional. If I was his mum, dad or wife, I’d certainly hope so, because what we see on the screen is a very simplified, almost cartoonish portrait of people and relationships.

The story just about overcomes the clichs, and a lot of credit must go to Alexandra Roach, who makes the thankless role of wife/girlfriend Julz into a triumph of charm, persistence and the feeling (on my part) that she was far too good for him.

The problem with the central character is that Potts is so put upon, such a sad sack (and chubby to boot), that hes hard to love. And given that its fairly obvious that its not his voice we hear when James Corden opens his mouth, theres something of a vacant hole at the centre of the film. Yes, it works, if you dont mind having your emotions jumped up and down on by a pair of hobnailed boots, with a storyline straight out of Mission Improbable, but life is never that simple or stereotyped. A little more complexity, however alien to Messrs Weinstein and Cowell, would not have gone amiss.

Along with Sunshine On Leith, it’s a feelgood film which is not only British but about ordinary British people, and that’s to be welcomed. Maybe asking for subtlety is just greedy.


Phil Raby

Front Row Films

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