The Goob is the story of a sixteen-year-old boy during one summer in England’s rural Fenland. Along the way, the titular character navigates the travails of love, friendship and adversity, and is ultimately forced to make a life-changing decision. Filmed in the picturesque East Anglian countryside, it stars a talented local cast including Liam Walpole, Sean Harris, Sienna Guillory and Hannah Spearritt. Nicola Macdonald sat down with director Guy Myhill and newcomer Walpole to talk Norfolk, fight scenes and escaping fate.
Where did the name Goob come from?
MYHILL: Well, I was a little kid and it was my first day in this particular primary school. I sat down at the desk I was allocated and then the boy next to me had an epileptic fit. The whole class just starting jumping around the room. The teacher got a ruler so that he wouldn’t choke on his tongue. This happened to me within about 30 seconds of sitting down. They called him Goob, and so it just stayed with me. I can picture it now.
So it’s a childhood association?
MYHILL: Oh yeah, like those kind of thoughts of your first love and trying to capture that. I wanted those elements to come through.
The film doesn’t feel as though it’s firmly set in a particular time…
MYHILL: I think you’re right, I didn’t want to focus on that. I much preferred to have him zooming around on his bike. That was the kind of mood that we wanted to push through. Running about with his “No Fear” pants, that sense of spirit and youthfulness.
Initially I got the sense that the film might be quite a dark story, but some elements, especially the music, frequently make it feel almost triumphant.
MYHILL: It was intentional, just trying to change the mood. I think it’s great if you can make people laugh and then build the tension up and break that.
Was music an important element of the film for you?
MYHILL: I tried throughout to get a strong, authentic Norfolk feeling not just in terms of the actors – it’s a very hard accent to pull off – but also for the music.
Luke Abbott is a local and a musician in his own right. He’s never scored before, but I wanted him because his work is all about trying to capture that flat landscape. It’s this electronic sound which I thought would be great. I didn’t know for sure that he could do it; similarly, I had to take a chance with Liam.
Sienna, Sean and Hannah are from that part of world, so they understood it and what we were trying to create. It was great to throw all that in, and to work with Luke, and see what was going to come out of it.
One of the things that is noticeable throughout the film is the inclusion of the background sounds like cars doors opening, seats creaking etc. Was that a deliberate choice?
MYHILL: Yes, we tried to. It’s tricky because some people might find that a bit intrusive, but we wanted to amplify all those kind of noises, like when you’re out in these massive spaces of open country: it can be very still, but sounds are accentuated and I thought that was nice. Equally with the stock car racing, we put in spitfire sounds to really drive that through.
Liam, how was it for you playing a character like Goob who has a limited amount of dialogue? Were you always clear on what his thoughts were in any given scene?
MYHILL: He was in the zone, he always understood what Goob was thinking at any particular point in the story.
WALPOLE: Definitely, and when I got to points where I got a bit stuck on his mindset for that scene, I would take a minute and revisit the previous scenes, just to get myself into the right mind-frame for where I should be.
MYHILL: Liam was getting more and more professional. He had his notebook and was taking a lot of time to get into the right space.
The scenes where Sean Harris’s character Womack is violent towards Goob, was that something interesting to play as someone who’s never acted before?
WALPOLE: That was probably my favourite scene to do to be honest. I didn’t honestly know how intense Sean would be to begin with, but he was straight into being really intense and I suppose that made me think ‘wow’, and then something clicked I was able to start back at him.
What you often hear from actors regarding those kind of scenes is that it is actually more real than audiences might imagine…
WALPOLE: Yeah, it is. It was quite scary when Sean was in the spur of the moment, you could definitely feel the mood from him and that really, really helped drive that scene.
The action of the film is very much in its own little bubble. Womack is very powerful in his own circle, but means nothing to the wider world.
MYHILL: Yeah, I suppose central to that was the sense that Womack is stuck; if anyone is really stuck, then it’s him. Not just geographically, but in his headspace: he is a stuck man. If you think of him in his stock car, there is a metaphor in him just going round and round.
There’s a shot of him when he is outside the transport cafe, and these trucks are hurtling back and forth, and he turns and he sees Goob. The intention there was to have a moment where Womack has seen Goob and knows that Goob is very different, and he is envious of that difference.
One of the first things we hear in the film is a bus driver saying ‘I hope you get out of this shithole.’
MYHILL: Yes, that kind of summed up that attitude.
Goob does get dropped suddenly in this place with no people his own age, until Oliver [Kennedy]’s character Elliot appears. With these rural communities is there a sense that you either stay or you go, with very little middle-ground?
MYHILL: From my point of view, yes – especially with Goob’s story. It’s about that sense of freedom. He knows it isn’t safe for him to be there anymore, and his mum is not going to protect him. Or perhaps she can’t, she’s incapable of protecting him, it’s whatever Womack chooses. So, I think Goob knows that it’s not the safest place to be…
And has to make a choice?
MYHILL: The intention is that during the course of the film you see that he has picked up enough experience and he can navigate whatever difficulties he has got coming his way.
Did you feel that choice is a moment where Goob is changing from boy to man?
WALPOLE: Definitely, I think all the way up to that point in the story he hasn’t really had time to make his own decisions, he’s always been told what to do. He’s got no freedom, and it isn’t until the end of the story that he realises that he needs to break away.
Sienna Guillory has said that she saw her character’s morality as grey, whereas Goob still saw things in black and white.
MYHILL: I think that the mum does get Goob into a kind of contract. He’s held in this position where she tries to keep him where he is, and she tries to control him, and by end he wants to break free of that.
There is a moment near the end of the film where she says to him ‘whose boy are you?’ and he says ‘I’m your boy,’ and she says ‘I want this in five years, and ten years.’ She’s just trying to keep him there.
The Goob is released in UK cinemas Fri 29 May 2015