At Close Range

As a UK script consultant I’ve often written scripts for clients that are based on true life stories. At Close Range from 1986 is a film based on a true story.

It’s stylishly shot film, with heaps of atmosphere and is well directed by James Foley who went to helm Glengarry Glen Ross as well as large sections of the TV series House of Cards.

A young Sean Penn turns in a memorable performance and Mary Stewart Masterson is good as the girl. The real motor of the piece is Penn’s father played by Christopher Walken, who’s memorably nasty while still being very believable as a character.

I was slightly obsessed by this film as a kid, and I think it has a direct influence in terms of atmosphere on my short film Family Style. I liked the brooding elements of Foley’s direction and his use of the countryside at night.

The script was written by Nicholas Kazan who also tackled another true story with Reversal of Fortune in 1990 which won real acclaim and was also a twisted tale of a murderous family.

At Close Range may feel a little dated to some, but it’s worth seeing and is a good example of a true story told well. The trailer (which is full of spoilers) is below…

Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, Eastenders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs. Matthew was winner of the first ever Lloyds Bank Channel Four Film Challenge, the Oscar Moore Screenplay Prize and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on