‘A drug town with a tourist problem’, jokes one of Jez Lewis’s interviewees about Hebden Bridge, the picturesque West Yorkshire town where Lewis grew up and an alarming number of friends and acquaintances have killed themselves or dedicated their lives to drink and drugs. Lewis is a producer who worked with Nick Broomfield on ‘Ghosts’, and his first film as a director is a personal work – painful for him; distressing for us – for which the 42 year old, prompted by the overdose of a friend, revisits Hebden over a year and films pals new and old as they go about their lives. We spend time with Cass, an alcoholic and one of Lewis’s oldest friends; Silly, an ex-soldier and also an alcoholic; and Liam, a scaffolder and heroin user who lives with his mum and lost a younger brother to drink a few months earlier.
Nobody seems to care when Lewis films them drinking their days away. If there were quibbles over his presence, Lewis omits them, just as he wisely leaves out any scenes of hard drug use. This is the sort of sympathetic yet not entirely forgiving film only a friend could make: Lewis wants answers but cares too much about his subjects to denigrate them with platitudes. The tragedy of Lewis’s sensitive and sensible film is that most of its subjects are as aware as us of the rut in which they are stuck. Most don’t deny that they could be next to die. Some even seem to will it.