Orphans (1997)

“Burying you Ma is a very killable offence.”

The dour, yet bitterly funny Scottish film Orphans follows the exploits of four siblings on the night before their mother’s funeral. When the film begins, the adult siblings gather around their mother’s coffin to say goodbye, and then they go out together to a local club for the evening. This is when things begin to unravel. While Thomas (Gary Lewis), the eldest. starts his all-night vigil at the church, Michael (Douglas Henshall) flirts with death, John (Stephen McCole) sets off on a quest for revenge with a crazed Chinese food delivery driver, and wheelchair bound Sheila (Rosemarie Stevenson) strikes out alone on the streets of Glasgow.

Orphans is both grim and darkly funny. The four siblings embark on various paths of self-destruction once their mother–the glue holding them together–dies. We only see one flashback of the mother, as a young woman, with the children, so we’ve no idea of the nature of the relationship between the mother and her children. Instead we see the children, now adults, struggling to survive in a world without their mother. And it seems questionable whether some of them will even survive the night. The hours before the mother’s funeral are crucial and ultimately maturing for the ‘orphans.’ At times hilarious (the scenes in the pub) and at times depressing, if you enjoy Scottish cinema, then you’ll want to catch this one from director Peter Mullan.

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