Bolan’s Shoes

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Writer and Director: Ian Puleston-Davies

Even Timothy Spall can’t rescue this turgidly sentimental film which, despite its title, has little to do with glam-rocker Marc Bolan. Indeed, T. Rex fans are advised to avoid this film completely and instead catch the documentary AngelHeaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan and T. Rex in cinemas for one night only on 14 September or then on streaming services from 22 September. In comparison, Bolan’s Shoes is less Hot Love and more Hot Mess

In the 1970s, a group of schoolchildren from Liverpool go to see T. Rex in concert. A vicar who travels with them has organised for the kids to get to meet the band after the concert. As the children pass through the dressing rooms, one girl pilfers a pair of Bolan’s glitzy platform shoes. However, the trip goes badly wrong when their coach crashes on the way home, prefiguring Bolan’s own death in a car crash in 1977 at the age of 29.

Bolan died in Barnes in London on 16 September and each year people travel to the shrine, with its own statue, that stands near to the spot where he died. On one such anniversary, many years later, vicar’s wife Penny, perhaps once a passenger on the fateful coach, meets a blast from the past in the shape of a man who makes giant bubbles.

We don’t know who Penny is for a long time. We see her practising her RP accent in the bathroom worried that her disguise will slip in front of the other vicars’ wives at a fancy reception. Strangely, writer/director Ian Puleston-Davies seems to tease a trans story. Could Penny once have been the boy with blue eye-shadow who started the fire on the coach which led to the crash? Is that why Penny is keen to keep her past hidden from these gossipy women?

Leanne Best as Penny plays a sympathetic character, especially when she takes off her mask, but Best is also required to provide a great deal of exposition, especially in the lengthy scene with her husband, the dependable Mark Lewis Jones. The dramatic story she tells is muted in flashback and remains improbable.

Spall plays Jimmy the bubble man, another person affected by the coach crash although he carries a different set of baggage. He’s confused and suffers from seizures when he’s stressed. He lives in an abandoned caravan on Barnes Common, mocked horribly by stragglers leaving the local pub at last orders. He spends his days cleaning the Bolan statue with a toothbrush.

Slowly, very slowly, we come to realise who these two damaged people are and how they are connected to each other. But the journey may be too gentle for some and too old-fashioned for others. Neither of them is convincing as a die-hard fan of the 70s pop sensation and it’s strange that T. Rex is slotted into this melodramatic story which would be more suited to a soap or an Agatha Christie tale. Still, is always nice to hear Children of the Revolution.

Bolan’sShoes will be in UK Cinemas from 15th September.

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