Better Things Liam McIlfatrick, Tara Ballard, Che Corr, Emma Cooper Director: Duane Hopkins Duane Hopkins studied painting and photography, and his artistic roots are very much in evidence in his first full-length feature, Better Things. The film relies on tableaux-like imagery, a pared-down grey-green colour scheme and startling experiments in sound design to drive a story about the lives of disaffected youth in the Cotswolds, an area in Britain more known for its picturesque landscape than young men and women knee-deep in drug addiction and social ennui. Better Things begins with the death of Tess (Emma Cooper) from a heroin overdose. She appears on screen dead, with a hypodermic needle stuck in her arm. In a quick montage, Hopkins introduces the geographical and social context surrounding her untimely demise through largely dialogue-free snapshots: the young woman's battles within herself, the young men's struggles with Tess' death and their addictions, all suppressed emotions bursting at the seams under the town's apparently tranquil facade. Just like Steve McQueen's Hunger - the film about IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands which stole the thunder of Hopkins' film at Cannes last year - Better Things is not a gritty social realist film ? la Ken Loach. It is more a serene study of social psychology in rural England, as it explores how a cocooned existence away from the bright lights of the city can also ferment abject teenage alienation. And just like Hunger, Better Things is captivating from start to finish, making Hopkins one of the brightest lights of British cinema alongside, say, Andrea Arnold, who has also tackled the subject of marginalised youth in Red Road. Extras: Hopkins' early shorts, Field and Love Me or Leave Me Alone; interview with the director.