Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

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Copyright: Utopia

Before lockdown, I used to frequent pubs. A lot. The Bay Horse was the place to go, mainly because for a quid you could queue up six songs on the jukebox. It was a really nice place, and it wasn’t until I’d finished viewing Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets that I realised how much I missed it. A film content with letting its own uniquely strange story unfold, a group of nobodies converge on a bar as it throws a party to celebrate one last day of being open before the inevitable closure and fallout from yet another cultured watering hole calling last orders one last time.   

It’s not just an experience of the bar culture though, it’s also one of shifting times. A bars closure is not normally a big deal, but this documentary from filmmakers Turner Ross and Bill Ross IV makes it feel like the end of the world. But it does so for a reason, it is the end of a way of life for the people that reside beside the bar and in the booths.  

The idle bar chat you’ve experienced after stumbling your way over the bar and bumped shoulders with a stranger, a whole film filled with that. All the bizarre notions you convince yourself of when under the influence, the sentimental speeches, a swathe of unintelligible bile that, to a sober mind, is complete nonsense. An oddball family of drifters that come together to share drinks, memories, and friendship. On the surface, Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, is simply a day in the life of a group of patrons saying farewell to their beloved bar, but to dig deeper than that is essential for this one. What the bar means to them is far beyond anything the average punter feels for their local tavern of choice. To the people found within this documentary it’s a farewell to the safety and homeliness they feel in a world where, through choices of either their own or of others, they find themselves alone.   

No matter what bar you may head to, regardless of quality or care, patrons or management, the pub is a place of community. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets looks to document that with some emotive force, showcasing just how important a few pints with a local group can be for those that don’t have strong connections with the outside world. Some moments strike me as staged or unconvincing, but I’d be hard-pressed to disregard the film entirely based on its somewhat questionable moments. At its core, fiction or reality, it’s a tremendously emotive look at how we view a place of gathering, and just how much we miss it once it’s out of our lives for good.