Life’s A Drag: ‘Tucked’ (15) reviewed

❉ ‘Tucked’ is a movie with many fine moments and two excellent central performances.

“Veteran star Derren Nesbitt gives a wonderful turn as a man facing up to mortality and the mistakes of his life.”

This odd couple film from writer/director Jamie Patterson introduces us to a pair of interesting and sympathetic characters on the Brighton club scene, and follows them through a crucial period in their lives. It’s a movie with many fine moments and two excellent central performances.

We first meet Jackie (veteran star Derren Nesbitt) performing her deliciously filthy act for an appreciative crowd at the cabaret club where she’s been a fixture for years. When new kid Faith (Jordan Stephens, half of Rizzle Kicks) arrives, Jackie takes the young singer under her wing and a mutual bond soon develops.

One of the strengths of Tucked is the characterisation of the leads, who are both satisfyingly complex creations. Jackie is the alter ego of widower Jack, who is that rare bird: a straight drag queen, while Faith is a proudly non-binary person who happens to have a cock and like boys. Jack is estranged from his daughter, and Faith was thrown out of the family home by an unsympathetic father, so each is conveniently placed to fill an emotional space in the other’s life.

The film’s dramatic motor gears up early with the revelation that Jack has a late-diagnosed terminal illness. With Jack suddenly facing a life expectancy of only a few weeks, Faith sets about helping him tick off experiences on his bucket list, but the main priority is obviously a reconciliation with daughter Lily (April Pearson, formerly in Skins). Will Jack and Lily be able to bury the decade-old argument that’s kept them apart for so long?

Patterson directs his script efficiently, and captures the intimacy of the relationship between Jack and Faith. Given the potential of the film’s premise, it’s slightly disappointing that the actual story isn’t particularly original or surprising. There’s no parallel narrative for Faith – how about a love interest, or an appearance from the bad dad? – and  the ending attempts to provide an emotional climax while denying us some key scenes that might have delivered a genuinely dramatic sense of closure.

But you should be kind to this film’s shortcomings and see it for the top quality of its performances. Nesbitt gives a wonderful turn as a man facing up to mortality and the mistakes of his life. Frequently shot in close-up, his face is incredibly expressive, like Albert Finney but with extra detail, and his drag persona Jackie is a splendidly authentic queen. Stephens is equally charismatic, giving Faith a mixture of pride and sadness, and he looks stunning in a platinum wig and bruised purple lipstick.

As with all odd couple stories, Tucked depends on the chemistry of its central double act, and in this respect Nesbitt and Stephens provide a winning formula of glamour and grit.

❉ Jamie Patterson’s TUCKED.  Starring Derren Nesbitt (Where Eagles Dare), Jordan Stephens (Rogue One) and Steve Oram (Sightseers). UK theatrical release date: 17th May. by Bulldog Distribution.

❉  Nick Myles is a London-based writer and director. His stage plays have been produced at numerous London theatres, and at both the Edinburgh and Brighton Fringe Festivals. He has also contributed to Big Finish’s range of Dark Shadows audio plays. Twitter: Nick Myles

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