Most `true story` movies are about famous or well -known people written and directed by other people. Scott and Sid is a film made by Scott and Sid about, erm, Scott and Sid. Scott Elliott and Sid Sydowskyj are/ were two Yorkshire based teenagers who aspired to ambitious plans and compiled a list of things they really wanted to do. Some of them were silly or puerile, others more ambitious. By the time they were 24 they had made large amounts of money via several business ventures and a little fortuitous happenstance along the way. It sounds unlikely and if you read the synopsis in full you’d think- no way could this have actually happened but it actually did. As you’ve probably guessed the latest addition to that hand scrawled list was to make a movie. And this is that movie.
Scott and Sid was made for £1.7m which the duo raised by selling investment packages in a method typical of their entrepreneurial and enthusiastic approach. It’s a difficult film to review as it would be easy to cut them some slack for their honesty yet equally tempting to criticise a film which is clearly the work of first timers. The editing is uneven and while the performances of the main two actors are excellent much around them seems a little undercooked and lacking context. This does sometimes work to the film’s favour though as the interaction between Scott and Sid becomes its convincing heart.
Richard Mason’s Scott is an eccentric gadfly who won’t concentrate in or out of class instead being the visionary who dreams big. It’s a performance that could be irritating but Mason ensures it includes vulnerability and likeability. Tom Blyth’s Sid has the bigger arc going from diffident schoolboy to strong willed businessman and the actor carries each of these transitions perfectly. Together they show a believable, rich friendship; Blyth in particular is heart breaking when he reveals to Scott his frustrations about his alcoholic mother. A scene in which Sid turns on Scott is powerful due both to the acting and also the way its shot from a distance as if emphasising the problems their latest enterprise has at that moment.
There’s plenty of humour as well. One stand out sequence when they trawl around houses trying to launch an oven cleaning business is very funny. The involvement of some local gangsters works well giving the guys someone to bounce off again fulfilling the comedic potential of the situation. Perhaps because a lot of it was actually said the dialogue is a strong aspect of the film sounding real rather than the obviously scripted words some films put into their character’s mouths. This may be what has attracted some criticism but it works for me.
I do think though that the film could have been even better had someone more experienced been brought in to the project to smooth the edges and make the story less episodic. They could also have improved a couple of sequences that don’t work too well. Obviously they wanted to make a warts and all story but a London sojourn feels unnecessary especially a wince inducing scene set in a pub which hits all the wrong notes. Later a scene in which Scott delivers an inspirational speech may include Braveheart style face paint but somehow misses the mark in getting across the inspirational vibe its intending. I also don’t really get a sense of how their various businesses succeeded. I know showing the intricacies of business would be boring but there’s a leap from the amusing start of projects to their successful realisation that leaves noticeable omissions that should have been covered even if only in a few extra lines. Details are often sparse, for example what sort of work did the media company do? Was this in the 2000s or earlier? I could find out elsewhere but it needs to be in the film.
So we never really learn the secret of their successes. All we see- and which Sid espouses several times- is hard work which seems a somewhat conservative notion considering that `dream chasers` epithet that follows the duo around. Is this really a film about being yourself as it purports to be or is it simply a re-iteration of the traditional idea that hard work brings results? To be fair this is partly addressed by Scott’s character who becomes bored by the air conditioned offices and multiple staff they end up amongst delivering another excellent scene. It could be that the film will resonate with US audiences more than homegrown ones as it taps into that American idea that with hard graft anyone can make it. In that sense perhaps Dreamchasers might have been a better name for the film.
Scott and Sid definitely has more good than bad patches while a couple of winning performances make it well worth seeing. If it makes their achievements seem easy its best to remember that all this actually did happen and it makes for a refreshingly different kind of film.