The best film of the year? Quite possibly

DURING his lifetime, Ian Curtis, the troubled lead singer of Joy Division never achieved the success he and the band so richly deserved.

Tuesday, 2nd October 2007, 7:29 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th October 2007, 10:09 am

Diagnosed with epilepsy and crippled by depression, Curtis took his own life in the early hours of May 18, 1980, at the age of 23.

His young wife Deborah discovered his body, hanging in the kitchen.

The following month, Love Will Tear Us Apart debuted in the UK charts; a heartfelt lament which laid bare the couple’s strained marriage.

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“Why is the bedroom so cold, turned away on your side? Is my timing that flawed, our respect run so dry?”

While the remaining members of the band reformed as New Order, the legacy of Curtis and Joy Division remains.

Photographer Anton Corbijn makes his feature film directorial debut with this emotionally devastating portrait of a tormented soul, based on Deborah’s memoir, Touching From A Distance.

Shot in startling monochrome, Control offers a sympathetic though by no means rose-tinted account of Curtis’s rise and tragic fall.

In early ’70s Macclesfield, Curtis (Sam Riley) wiles away his teenage years in a haze of music, chain-smoking and prescription drugs.

He falls for local girl Deborah Woodruff (Samantha Morton) and they eventually marry.

Ian pursues his musical dreams while holding down a job at the local unemployment office.

Soon after, he forms the band Warsaw with Peter Hook (Joe Anderson), Bernard Sumner (James Anthony Pearson) and Stephen Morris (Harry Treadaway), re-christening the group Joy Division under bullish manager Rob Gretton (Toby Kebbell).

An appearance on Granada Reports, hosted by Tony Wilson (Craig Parkinson), propels Ian further into the spotlight, while Deborah gives birth to their daughter, Natalie.

Suffocated by the expectations of his band, Ian cheats on his wife with Belgian fan Annik (Alexandra Maria Lara), who accompanies Joy Division on a European tour.

When Debbie discovers the affair, Ian begs forgiveness.

“I’m sorry Debbie. I owe you everything. I love you,” he sobs.

“What does that mean?” she asks tersely.

“I’ll finish with her,” he replies, but some promises he just can’t keep.

Elegantly scripted by Matt Greenhalgh, Control is a harrowing journey into the soul of a man wrestling with fame, guilt and the growing strain of his epilepsy.

Riley is mesmerising in the lead role, leaving us in no doubt of the iconic post-punk singer’s internal suffering that drives him to make the ultimate sacrifice.

He is equally captivating in the electrifying concert sequences, performing most of the songs live with his on-screen band-mates.

Morton is stunning as the cuckolded wife who initiates divorce proceedings after his first suicide attempt, leaving behind a note that reads “No need to fight now, give my love to Annik, Ian.”

Corbijn’s direction is assured throughout, filming the closing scenes with sensitivity and restraint.

Best film of the year? Quite possibly.