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 SUMMARY

When Alex, a homeless alcoholic musician, is taken in by an old friend, Rachel, it is his last chance to sober up before he loses everything. But can Alex escape his addiction and his obsession with his ex-girlfriend long enough to appreciate the girl who is trying to save him?

SYNOPSIS

Stones is a true life story based on the experiences of musician Alexander McKay.  After Alex’s band derails in California he’s forced to return to the UK to start over. Alex finds his voice again as a singer songwriter, but his hopes of reigniting his career are threatened by excessive drinking. 

As the booze takes hold, his girlfriend, Jen, throws him out, and he is booed off stage for being too drunk, losing his job. In the midst of this his manager, who has heard enough to line up a potential recording deal, is chasing him to write some new material.

When a friend from his college days, Rachel, sees Alex sleeping rough and takes pity on him, he has one last chance to get his act together. But though he desperately wants to succeed, he can’t stay away from the sauce. 

It is only when he finally reaches rock bottom that Rachel is able to help Alex see what he is doing to himself and those around him. But Alex is still obsessed with Jen. Can he stay sober, start writing again, and finally notice the love that is right under his nose, or will his obsessions and addiction drag him back down?

REVIEW

2016. Colour. Donroy Entertainment  (90 mins)

Direction: Roydon Turner. Screenplay: Don Mcnab-Stark
Cast: Alexander McKay, Kirsten Hazel Smith, Mark Homer, Elizabeth Croft, Alan Booty

At some point in this film the leading lady suggests that everyone deserves a last chance. This might even be true. At all events it is, on several levels, the theme of this rewarding film.

Stones, made on a miniscule budget and directed by Roydon Turner, is a serious look at alcohol addiction. This is not as gloomy as it sounds; the charm of the leading players makes us hope for the luckiest of conclusions. The film also contains eleven original songs by Alexander McKay, expertly woven into the fabric of the story. McKay also plays the lead.

The film tells of the downward spiral of Alex (Alexander McKay), a musician who has lost his way through alcoholism. His suitably posh girlfriend, Jen (Elizabeth Croft), driven to despair by his hidden liquor bottles and drunken aimlessness, eventually locks him out of her apartment. Alex is reduced to sleeping under cardboard in alleyways and dreaming of Jen, where half-waking imagery and voices colour his shifting prism of reality.

One day an acquaintance from the past chances on him while he is busking. Many years before, Rachel (Kirsten Hazel Smith) had thought him destined for a successful pop career, but now, in a scene of increasing discomfort, she bashfully drops coins in his hat.

Through his good friend Pete (Mark Homer), Alex gets a gig in a pub, which leads to the promise of a recording contract and the hope of a reconciliation with Jen. In the meantime, Rachel installs him in her flower delivery van and encourages him to write new songs. It is at this point, on the brink of success, that Alex becomes drunk at a gig and his life spirals down into that final chapter: recovery if he’s lucky, hopelessness if he’s not.

Alexander McKay, on acting debut, does an accomplished and engaging job as Alex while Alan Booty gives a fine three-minute cameo as Alex’s alcoholic father, whom he sees only in the pub. Kirsten Hazel Smith (reminiscent of the young Jenny Agutter) makes a fetching Rachel with whom anyone would fall in love except for Alex who imagines Jen will take him back.

The relationship between Alex and Rachel grows convincingly, he regarding her as a good friend, and she falling in love with him. Kirsten Hazel Smith brings a sweet and endearing element to Rachel’s attachment to Alex, while he returns her friendship with a grateful and amiable befuddlement. So befuddled that he mistakes Rachel’s brother for her boyfriend, and directs his attentions towards the wrong woman.

Conventional wisdom insists there are 36 plots. In contrast, there are an infinity of relationships (or at least as many as there are people on the planet). While this story has a plot worthy of the mighty weight of Film Theory, it is a film of relationships, of glances and reactions that say more than words. The leads are well supported by the other players in this regard. A general freshness to the performances tends to presence rather than the commonplace.

There are memorable moments in the film, one being Rachel’s entrance on a bicycle to enhanced timbre on the soundtrack; Alex’s disastrous pub gig is underplayed as much as his drunken antics on the Thames Path are overplayed, the latter making us reel for balance ourselves. Both approaches are effective and, amongst many touches, show the thought that went into the making of this film.

Stones is an impressive feature film debut for TV commercial director Roydon Turner, and his writing partner, Don Mcnab-Stark, miraculous on so small a budget.

The music track should appeal to most people, the screenplay hits the right notes, the fine dialogue is expertly delivered, the leads are engaging, and the production values meet requirements. It is hard to imagine the curmudgeon who would not enjoy it.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, the film is already an enormous success; it remains to be seen if the audience is one, too. I’ll wager they will be.

Fred Hebbert  04 April 2017

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ALEX'S STORY

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It’s tough being a musician trying to launch your career in a sea of X-factors and wanna-beidols. It’s even tougher when you’re an alcoholic. Like many musicians before him, Alex was caught up in the relentless tide of binge drinking. One drink to warm up, another to loosen the throat, two more to keep up with the band, five to keep up with the crowd and, if you’re still standing, the infamous one for the road.

Whether in a club, a bar, a pub, or a lonely hotel, for many musicians past and present, being an alcoholic has been a rite of passage if you can survive the booze, you might have a shot of surviving in the industry!

Like many before him, Alex got caught up in this, drinking to excess, barely getting sober before the next round of drinking started. But hey, everyone else was doing it, so why shouldn’t he?

A kid once said to me, “do you get hangovers?” I said, “to get hangovers you have to stop drinking.”  
Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, Motorhead.

Alex’s "closer to the edge” moment came in Brighton. After a long day of boozing he blacked out, only to wake up hanging from the end of Brighton pier. Only his leather belt had stopped him tumbling into the frigid, stormy waters below, caught by some miracle on the top of the railing. As he scrambled back to safety, his face white with fear, his hands shaking, Alex knew it was time to stop, time to change the way he lived while he still could.

For Alex, Stones is an opportunity to pay it back, his one last chance to not only show what it can be
like for musicians, but also that there is hope, there is another way, and that there is life beyond the
bottle or the hotel minibar.