Scottish writer Irvine Welsh is known for his twisted novels full of sex, violence, drugs and plenty of black humor. Translating all of that into a single film can, understandably, be a challenge. Scottish director Jon S. Baird may not have many titles to his IMDB credit in terms of experience but for Filth he’s all in. Baird adapted the novel for the screenplay, acted as a producer and, of course, directed the film. The resulting film is quick and warped, just like you’d expect.
James McAvoy portrays Detective Bruce Robertson, a man obsessed with getting a promotion to win his wife and daughter back. He’s so dedicated to getting that promotion that he lines up a plan to make each of his coworkers look bad. Meanwhile he’s been put in charge of the high profile investigation of a Japanese tourist who was jumped in the street and killed. Unfortunately, Bruce’s personal life is getting in the way of his career aspirations. He’s having an affair with every woman he can, doing every drug he can get his hands on and rather shameless about all of it. The pressure continues to build for Bruce as his personal demons grow and become more than he can suppress.
Baird gets the dementia and craziness of Filth across clearly although certain aspects, like Bruce’s unresolved issues about his brother’s death when they were children, aren’t interwoven clearly throughout the film. Instead of building one thing on top of another, each roadblock pops up somewhat unexpectedly. Part of the story that is well executed is the polite relationship Bruce develops with a young widow (portrayed by Downton Abbey‘s Joanne Froggatt) after he attempts but fails to resuscitate her husband on the street. It’s offers a hint of the good Bruce that isn’t scheming against his friends and coworkers while bedding their wives. It hints at the deeper loss that Bruce feels. It’s his ultimate downfall.
Entertaining, quick paced and darkly funny, Filth lives up to the original novel.