Teenage pregnancy, gun crime and suicide are three issues one is likely to come across in almost any newspaper on any given day. In fact if the UK papers are to be believed, Britain’s streets are currently breeding the most vicious, morally comatose generation our nation has ever seen. With slipping standards and a lack of police respect, the ship of common decency seems to be sinking, fast.
Yet beneath the ‘hoodies’ and Burberry, is there another side to these brazen young individuals who strut the streets? Clearly tired of the dismissive, fear driven coverage of such youngsters’ lives, KiDULTHOOD, while making no excuses for impropriety, seeks to provide an insight into life in West London through teenage eyes, challenging stereotypes and exploring real issues with a blunt and often harsh lens.
Directed by former music video specialist Menhaj Huda and written by Noel Clarke (of the BBC’s Dr Who fame) the film takes shape as 48 hours in the shoes of eight streetwise teenagers. All are given the day off school following the death of a classmate driven to suicide by ruthless bullying. Fifteen-year-old Trife (Aml Ameen) takes a central role from the outset of the film, as a young black man plagued with the responsibilities of managing his street cred at school, intense family pressure to join the criminal underworld and a tumultuous relationship with ex-girlfriend Alisa (Red Madrell) who claims to be carrying his child.
Added to this mix are Trevor’s friends Moony (Femi Oyeniran) and Jay (Adam Deacon) and the particularly sinister character of school bully Sam (played by screenwriter Noel Clarke). Along with Ray Winstone’s daughter Jamie in the role of Becky, they complete a stunning cast, whose characters are each sufficiently developed to ensure a strong level acting throughout the story.
This wholly British flick is a truly gritty portrayal of life on the streets of West London. It is told with conviction, honesty and a killer home grown soundtrack of UK Hip Hop and Grime. While the realistically ‘street’ approach to the film, in terms of colloquial slang, will no doubt limit its audience somewhat, it does provide strong parallels to other celluloid insights into youth sub-culture such as Trainspotting.
Visually, the film works because it was made by Londoners. They know the city and its back streets inside out, from sequences shot guerrilla style on Oxford Street to altercations with shopkeepers in Ladbroke Grove. The inner city backdrop is woven so seamlessly into the script that it wavers in and out of documentary and drama in style, while the rich tapestry of estate blocks and period architecture complements the plot.
The film’s approach to sensitive issues – abortion, prostitution – are very much up front and occasionally a little too overt, while some of the agenda driven challenges to stereotypes also jar sharply – particularly a scene where an overly ‘camp’ shop assistant protests at Becky’s dismissal of his sexuality. However, despite the drugs, sex and abundance of foul mouthed attitude, KiDULTHOOD has an intrinsically moral message at heart.
Noel Clarke’s screenplay juxtaposes sacrifice, redemption and compassion alongside the misunderstood, aggression fuelled actions of his characters. Choosing to portray in harsh reality the disgrace and weaknesses of even the most brazen individuals, he has managed to tread the tightrope of mindless violence and morality sans soapbox with streetwise proficiency and stealth. It provides a highly entertaining, yet often chilling, account of life through the eyes of kids too old to be children, yet too young to be adults.