“The youth of Britain is green and dying in Bypass, Duane Hopkins’s overwrought yet convincing tale of a nauseous petty criminal torn between the hospital appointment and the lock-up garage,” begins the Guardian‘s Xan Brooks. “Hopkins, some may recall, made an eye-catching debut with 2008’s Better Things, a film that rustled up a keen portrait of marginalized, alienated middle England. If Bypass (playing the Orizzonti sidebar here at Venice) hardly heads in search of fresh terrain, it at least provides a brooding, increasingly potent spin around the familiar sights.”
“Looking scrawny and sallow compared to his 2013 appearances in Kevin Macdonald’s underrated YA novel adaptation How I Live Now and Proclaimers musical Sunshine on Leith, George MacKay is the standout,” writes Catherine Bray at HitFix. “Bypass sees Brit-on-the-rise MacKay in loosely similar territory to his other 2013 release, Paul Wright’s dour, artful For Those in Peril, in which he also played an almost completely friendless and increasingly desperate youth isolated from his family, though there the similarities between the two films end.”
For Variety‘s Guy Lodge, Bypass is “an artsy slab of British urban miserablism that remains oddly unmoving despite its surfeit of onscreen suffering…. Though filmed in and around the Northern town of Gateshead, Bypass isn’t heavy on environmental specifics. Hopkins’s intent is to convey the decayed sense of social identity and economic standing across England’s de-industrialized satellite towns, collectively visualized here as an airless network of unyielding concrete and snaking motorways to nowhere in particular. Living in a place that has so little sense of self, young Tim (McKay) has essentially followed suit.”
David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter: “Tim lives in council housing surrounded by a tangle of motorways with his clinically depressed mother (Arabella Arnott) and younger sister Helen (Lara Peake), a sullen, undisciplined girl who sees no point pretending their situation is anything but miserable. With his father out of the picture and older brother Greg (Benjamin Dilloway) doing time for robbery, Tim’s only recourse to support his family is to start fencing stolen goods, betraying his inherently honest nature…. The sole source of hope in Tim’s life is his supportive girlfriend Lilly, whose strength and maturity are nicely drawn in Charlotte Spencer’s tender performance.”
Screen‘s Lee Marshall: “Another small virtue is the connections the writer-director’s draws between depressed former manufacturing towns and a crisis of maleness: in this film, it’s the women who are the strongest, most self-assured characters.”
“Bypass is a disappointment, with obvious talent going to waste due to too much emphasis on aesthetics and not enough to telling an original and gripping story,” finds John Bleasdale at CineVue.
Saara Vahermägi at Cineuropa: “The film flows at a calm, dream-like pace—Tim’s reality is mixed with visions of his past, as memories of his mother and father haunt him in his day-to-day life. This sense of reality being a dream (or rather a nightmare) is reinforced by the meditative music by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans. Bypass does not give clear answers to the questions it poses, but it does end with a surprise—contrary to the bleakness of the majority of the film, it ends on an unexpected note of hope.”
Ioncinema‘s Eric Lavallee interviews McKay.
Update, 9/9: “Overusing lensflary wooziness and a handheld, shallow depth of field aesthetic in an effort to inject a kind of lyricism into its dehumanized urban environments and working-class interiors, the film never settles into anything like a compelling rhythm,” finds Jessica Kiang at the Playlist. “And this is despite some very good, committed performances that are happening somewhere underneath all that lathered-on style; it’s a great shame that sophomore feature director Hopkins was not as interested in his characters as he was in making a statement film about his characters.”