“Starred Up” is prison slang for a young offender so violent and uncontrollable that he makes the step up to adult prison early. That’s Eric Love – played by Jack O’Connell. Things look bleak for Love; a life behind bars beckons for the psychologically damaged 19-year old. Until, that is, the prison’s therapist becomes determined to rehabilitate him, aided by Neville, Eric’s father.

Starred UpJack O'Connell stars in 'Starred Up'

For U.K cinemagoers, this violent and brilliantly written thriller offers up the best viewing this weekend. Hitting cinemas tonight, ‘Starred Up’s’ main contender is Svengali, another – albeit very stylistically very different - British film. 

More: Read our review of 'Starred Up' here

“It is an incendiary, visceral, riveting drama with a fascinating Oedipal twist; a brutal-realist depiction of male behaviour and prison culture, with the bitter tang of authenticity,” according to Laurence Phelan of The Independent. 

“For all its shockingly graphic bloodshed and atmosphere of pervasive doom, the moments when Starred Up grabs the jugular most are the scenes in Oliver's anger-management classes, where Eric sits with people of similar age and vulnerability,” wrote Michael Pattison for Sight & Sound. 

“For such a violent movie, it pulls its punches a little at the last. But not before it has given us a bleak picture of the defeated misery of a certain kind of violent man, locked in a prison of his own making,” said The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw. 

Suffice to say, the critics loved it; they loved it to the tune of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, putting it into ‘must see’ territory. “I knew it was something very original,” says Rupert Friend, who plays the prison therapist, Oliver.

“That’s rare to find. The whole thing is very much drawn from life. I didn’t know that when I read it, but I still felt it very keenly. That kind of authenticity leaps out at you and is very appealing.” (The Mirror)