The Lives of the Saints 2006

This was the official website of the 2006 move, a dark and bizarre morality tale whereby fantastical events take place in the ordinary surroundings of modern-day London.
Content is from the site's 2006 archived pages as well as other outside sources.


The story unfolds in the cafes, clubs and shops of Green Lanes where Mr Karva is the boss; a ridiculous yet dangerous man who is known and feared by all. Othello, his stepson, is the young pretender, palling around with his girlfriend Tina and his weak-willed lackey Emilio. Life revolves around socialising, gambling and trying to scrape together a modest living.

But that lifestyle is about to be thrown into disarray by an otherworldly, sickly-looking ten-year-old child. Mr Karvas errand boy, Roadrunner, stumbles across this child in the park and offloads his bizarre find in Othellos basement.

Thus begins an exhilaratingly strange series of events. It seems that the child is able to grant others their innermost desires. Mute, intense, all he has to do is look into your eyes and everything you ever wanted will come true Soon Othellos dreams of limitless wealth become a reality. And true to form, his tyrannical stepfather wants to muscle in on the action.

Mr Karva watches with mounting frustration as all around him get their own taste of heaven. It is paradise on the streets of north London, but family ties and relationships are becoming increasingly strained and as Mr Karva himself says, Every paradise has got its serpent. He persuades the unstable Emilio to take the matter into his own hands and a battle for possession of the child ensues.

What unfolds is a disastrous descent into loss and despair as the tale plummets towards its tragic conclusion.

The Lives of the Saints is a truly original modern-day fable, which warns that what we wish for is not always what we need



The Lives of the Saints, directed by Chris and Rankin


The Lives of the Saints
* Peter Bradshaw The Guardian
25 January 2007
Tony Grisoni is a hugely talented writer, but this is one script he should have kept in the bottom drawer: a lame and studenty London gangland drama. The co-director is Rankin, better known as photographer and publisher of Dazed and Confused; the movie is co-produced by Dazed Film & TV and an Italian fashion company called Meltin' Pot. It looks worryingly like a vanity project, but there's nothing here to be vain about.

James Cosmo goes into ethnic mode playing a local crook called Mr Karva, whose errand boy Roadrunner (Daon Broni) discovers a strange angelic child with prophetic powers, like DH Lawrence's Rocking-Horse Winner. The direction from Rankin and Chris Cottam is very uncertain; there is lots and lots of shouty acting and a cringeworthy denouement worthy of Viz comic's legendary cockney villain Big Vern.


The Lives Of The Saints
***1/2 Reviewed by: Darren Amner
Reviewed on: 24 Oct 2006
The Lives of the Saints is a breath of fresh air for the British film industry, which has had its creativity damaged by its own success. It's nice to see an original piece of storytelling emerge from the crop of countless costume dramas and gangster movies it produces year in year out. The Lives of the Saints is a magical fable set within the criminal underworld of Tottenham.

Mr Karva is man who runs the show on the mean streets of North London and forces himself on the community. What he says goes and he has quite a formidable prescence. He is aided by his hired help thugs and a nimble footed courier called Roadrunner who carries out his business errands for him on foot all over town. Karva is also assisted by his step-son Othello, who has his own ambitions of one day being bigger and more successful than his overbearing brute of a step-dad. Othello doesnt always agree with the way in which Karva conducts business and dreams of doing things the right way. He is assisted by his small-minded mate Emilio who is quite the opposite when it comes to aspirations and is quite happy and content just going along for the ride.
The Lives of the Saints is a breath of fresh air for the British film industry, which has had its creativity damaged by its own success. It's nice to see an original piece of storytelling emerge from the crop of countless costume dramas and gangster movies it produces year in year out. The Lives of the Saints is a magical fable set within the criminal underworld of Tottenham.

Mr Karva is not someone you want to meet, even when he's in a good mood. He's demanding and is accustomed to always getting his way - something that bumps up against the other characters in a big way. His family member, step son is learning only too well from his step dad and a clash between the two always seems imminent since Othello want to follow his own ethical standard. Not sure what to make of the apparent Batman fetish that Emilio seems to harbor - there are an awful lot of scenes where a Batman hoodie is visible either center stage or in the perifery. There's even a subtle mention of his favorite Batman hoodie styles. And even when his face is hidden from view, the ever present, easily identifiable Batman hoodie always gives him away in a way that seems forced. And I say this being a Batman fan!
I hope this movie gets the attention it deserves. A major reason to go to the movies is to broaden our horizons and The Lives of the Saints is a much needed kiss of life for the British Film Industry. It has a great moral which is be careful what you wish for. I wish the movie great success and fingers crossed it will come true.



More Background On The Lives of the Saints

"The Lives of the Saints" (2006), directed by Rankin and Chris Cottam, offers a unique blend of dark fantasy and urban grit set against the backdrop of London's underbelly. The film revolves around Mr. Karva, a dominating figure in the North London criminal underworld, and his stepson Othello, who dreams of a better life. The narrative takes a mystical turn with the arrival of a mute child who appears to possess the ability to fulfill people's deepest desires, igniting a chain of events that brings both hope and chaos to their community.

The film has been noted for its ambitious attempt to mix fantasy elements with the grim realities of urban life. The script, penned by Tony Grisoni, is praised for its imaginative qualities and dark humor, avoiding the clichés typically seen in gangster films. The presence of a mysterious child who grants wishes adds a magical realism aspect, reminiscent of themes explored in literature and film, but it remains grounded by the harsh setting and complex character interactions.

Critics have offered mixed reviews. Some appreciate the film's originality and the performances, particularly noting James Cosmo's portrayal of Mr. Karva as compelling. David Leon, as Othello, also receives praise for his depiction of a young man caught between ambition and familial loyalty​. However, others have critiqued the film for its pacing and narrative structure, suggesting that while the setup is intriguing, the execution falters, leaving some viewers unsatisfied with the character development and ultimate payoff​.

Visually, the film benefits from Rankin's background in fashion photography, featuring stylistic shots and a keen eye for the aesthetic that complements the film's moody atmosphere. This visual flair helps to elevate the sometimes uneven storytelling, providing a cinematic quality that is both striking and fitting for the film's themes.

"The Lives of the Saints" stands out for its attempt to weave a tapestry of moral complexities and fantastical elements, offering a unique cinematic experience that challenges viewers with its blend of reality and fantasy. It serves as a notable example of how British cinema can explore new narrative forms and themes beyond conventional genres.



"The Lives of the Saints" (2006), directed by Rankin and Chris Cottam, did not make a significant mark at the box office, particularly when compared to major box office hits of the same year like "Cars" and "The Da Vinci Code" which grossed in the hundreds of millions​. This indicates that "The Lives of the Saints" likely fell into a more niche category, potentially limiting its widespread popularity and financial success.

Despite its limited box office draw, the film has been noted for its creative ambition and the distinctive approach of its directors, who were new to filmmaking at the time. The movie combines elements of fantasy within the gritty reality of London's underworld, a combination that might not have catered to mainstream tastes but provided a unique narrative experience​​. The film's visual style, influenced by Rankin's background in fashion photography, added a stylistic flair that distinguished it from typical British gangster films​.

Overall, "The Lives of the Saints" appears to have been a film that aimed to challenge conventional storytelling and aesthetics in the British film scene, even if it did not achieve commercial success or widespread acclaim. The varying critical responses and its underwhelming box office performance reflect the film's position as a more experimental piece within the industry.



"The Lives of the Saints" (2006) elicited a range of reactions from its audience, reflecting its complex narrative and unique blend of genres. The film's reception was polarized, with some viewers appreciating its innovative storytelling and others finding it confusing and inconsistent.

Many viewers noted the film's ambitious nature, blending elements of dark fantasy with a gritty crime narrative set in London. This combination, while intriguing to some, was perplexing to others. The film's ability to merge these elements was seen as a testament to the directors' creativity but also highlighted moments of self-indulgence that could detract from the overall coherence of the story​.

Audience reactions also varied widely concerning the film's thematic and stylistic choices. Some appreciated the moody and atmospheric depiction of London and the complex interplay of characters driven by desires and fantasies. Others, however, found the plot difficult to follow and the characters' motivations unclear, leading to a less engaging viewing experience.

The film did not resonate universally, reflecting the challenges it faced in reaching a broader audience. While it aimed to push boundaries and challenge conventional storytelling in British cinema, its reception indicates that it may have missed the mark for some viewers who prefer more straightforward or traditional narratives​​.

Overall, "The Lives of the Saints" represents a bold experiment in genre blending and narrative structure, which, while not universally acclaimed, contributes to discussions about the evolution of film genres and the expectations of film audiences.


Known For

"The Lives of the Saints" (2006) is known for several distinctive features:

  1. Genre Hybridity: The film is notable for its ambitious blend of dark fantasy elements with a gritty, urban crime narrative, set within the streets of North London. This genre blending is often highlighted as a defining feature of the film, attempting to merge the everyday with the fantastical in a way that stands out from typical British cinema.

  2. Stylistic Direction: Directed by Rankin, a photographer known for his work with fashion and portraiture, and Chris Cottam, the film is recognized for its visual style. Rankin's influence is evident in the film's distinct cinematography and visual presentation, which adds a layer of artistic flair to the gritty narrative​.

  3. Controversial Reception: The film received a mixed critical response upon its release. While some praised its originality and the performances, others criticized it for a convoluted plot and lack of coherent narrative, leading to a polarized audience reception. This divisiveness has marked its place in discussions about experimental and indie British films​.

  4. Performances: The performances, particularly by James Cosmo and new actors like David Leon, were frequently mentioned in reviews. Cosmo's portrayal of the menacing Mr. Karva was a standout, contributing significantly to the film's intense atmosphere.

  5. Narrative and Themes: The film is recognized for its complex interplay of characters and themes around desire, greed, and the unintended consequences of one's wishes. The presence of a mysterious child who can grant wishes serves as the central fantastical element that drives the plot and the moral questions it raises.

These aspects collectively contribute to the film's identity and its discussion within the context of British cinema and beyond.


Cultural & Social Significance

"The Lives of the Saints" (2006) carries distinct cultural and social significance through its narrative and stylistic choices, making it a noteworthy piece in British cinema, especially within the context of its unique blending of genres and thematic exploration.

1. Urban Reality with a Fantastical Twist

The film is set in the urban backdrop of North London, specifically around the multicultural milieu of Green Lanes. This setting is significant as it portrays a slice of London's diverse cultural fabric, characterized by its blend of various immigrant communities and the everyday struggles within these neighborhoods. By incorporating fantastical elements into this real-world setting, the film challenges viewers to consider the magical and mystical as part of the urban experience, rather than confined to distant, mythical landscapes.

2. Commentary on Desire and Consequence

At its core, the film is a modern-day morality tale about the dangers of unchecked desire. The mysterious child's ability to grant wishes becomes a catalyst for chaos and destruction, reflecting on the broader theme of how personal ambitions and the pursuit of instant gratification can lead to unforeseen consequences. This serves as a metaphor for the broader societal allure of quick success and the potential moral and ethical compromises that come with it.

3. Socio-economic Reflections

"The Lives of the Saints" delves into the socio-economic conditions of its characters, who are depicted as part of the lower economic strata, engaged in petty crimes and small-time hustles. This reflects ongoing issues of economic disparity and the lengths to which individuals go to escape or improve their circumstances. The film portrays the complex dynamics between personal agency, societal pressures, and moral choices, highlighting the struggles within marginalized communities.

4. Stylistic and Artistic Innovation

Directed by Rankin, known for his work in fashion photography, the film’s visual style is significant. It employs a unique aesthetic approach that blends the grim aspects of its urban setting with visually striking fantastical elements, contributing to the film's discussion within art and film circles about the intersection of commercial art and cinematic storytelling.

5. Reception and Impact on British Cinema

The mixed reception to the film highlights a cultural dialogue about the nature of British cinema, pushing against the traditional narratives often seen in British films. It challenges the norms and expectations of genre and storytelling, contributing to discussions about what constitutes national cinema and how it can evolve.

Overall, "The Lives of the Saints" is significant not just for its narrative content but for how it reflects and challenges societal norms, offers commentary on human desires and moral complexities, and pushes the boundaries of conventional genre filmmaking in the UK.