Step Thirteen Brad, Dawn and Giselle are an aimless recovering-alcoholic threesome. All share a house, a bed, and a surreal take on the world. They live with their husky Slash on the deserted backwater of the Isle of Grain in Kent – neighbours to nothing but a tempting pub and a vast power station. Their ancient Volvo hasn’t seen daylight for years. Without the drink, there seems to be nowhere worth driving to. Brad – philosopher, trumpeter, self-appointed visionary – has just completed the AA’s twelve-step programme. Officially ‘cured’ after ten long years, Brad is dumped by his loyal shrink, who suggests fatherhood as an alternative career path to alcoholism. Brad is pretty sure he’d prefer a life of escape and adventure. But like the other two members of his threesome, he’s constitutionally incapable of making anything actually happen. Dawn spends her days hanging out with the nurses at the local hospital: it’s a great way to access the catering supplies. Dawn fends off the nurses’ salacious interest in her domestic set-up with disarming openness. Truth be told, what with managing Brad and keeping Giselle on the rails it’s been a while since sex was on the menu. Recently she’s begun to wonder if she’s replaced one fix with another. Is she addicted to her mothering role? And if she is, what’s the cure? Young Giselle, a whippet-thin waster, watches daily life through a haze of cigarettes and daytime TV. She met Brad at AA, moved in with him and Dawn that night and has rarely left the sofa since. Giselle’s not so much recovering as on an extended holiday from alcoholism. But as we all know, the best of holidays has to end. Deep inside herself, Giselle knows it too. But how? And when? On a day like every other, the trio’s husky dog finds a mysterious rusted canister in the marshland grasses. Brad is soon hooked – he believes it has superhuman powers and will change their lives forever. But after a car crash in which they cross paths with a tough little Danish country boy, they lose track of their prize. Undaunted, they pursue it onto a ferry, unaware that the ferry is heading to Esbjerg – a place beyond their imagining, in a country they’ve never heard of. The trio chase their quarry up the desolate West coast of Denmark to an isolated hotel near Skagen. There’s nowhere further to run. Here they become unwitting pawns in a bitter family battle for ownership of the hotel – and come face to face with their demons. When the tough little boy reappears, a big decision looms. Will Brad’s grandiose plans for his future pan out? Will Dawn rediscover her mojo? Will Giselle ever reveal the secret that drove her to drink? And is the canister truly the trio’s saviour – or just another bottle? Obsessed with the laundry, the stars and whether the wardrobe is moving on its own or not, the question they’re all really juggling is: having got to step twelve, what’s step thirteen?
Developed with British Film Institute BFI