As soon as I walked out of the cinema the images of Bombay Beach and its inhabitants were flashing in my mind. Alma Har’el has truly captured the essence of a remote American backwater, in the heart of the Californian desert. Rusty old boats strewn on the shoreline, dusty trailer parks with old oil-rigs mere blips on the horizon and everyone “hanging” around.. its hard not to imagine this place as a modern-day western town.
Bombay Beach orientates around three unforgettable characters, the first is called Red – captivating, with a true zest for life, the elderly ex-oil rig worker turned divorcee swans about the place, selling cigarettes and drinking. His opinions are somewhat questionable, he is most definitely a racist but also an optimist, referring to life as a “habit” and refusing to say “good-bye” because it is too definite and life in Bombay Beach is anything but that. These words have a resounding impact on the other two protagonists, one of them, CeeJay, is an African American football player wanting to be the first in his family to go to college. He left LA to escape gangs who claimed his cousin and admits that whilst there isn’t much to do in Bombay Beach he prefers it to getting into trouble. The last character is Benny Parrish, a young boy who suffers from both hyperactive and bipolar disorder. His parents, while perhaps severely misguided on how to live, (they were in prison for blowing up explosives and building what would appear to be a training camp – they claimed it was just for fun) do appear to love and cherish each of their children. Benny suffers from taking an extensive cocktail of medications, isolating and distancing him from his fellow class-mates and friends. His witty remarks are nothing short of genius from a child, rendering him completely loveable. His charm and charisma resounds through the screen, in short he’s the son you’d love to have or the brother you’d dream of.
To disagree with Red, one thing is definite. The definite sense of community that enraptures the audience, where people live together in peace, protected from a harder modern-day world. Here in Bombay Beach, people who live in dire poverty rejoice and come together, to eat drink and be merry. They commemorate the dead, give thanks to God and rally round when someone becomes sick. They experience an existence that few of us can only dream of, the closest we’ll get is 90 minutes on a chair at the Broadway Cinema, Nottingham.