Kida Khodr Ramadan
Thrown out of the vile yet expensive house shared with her vile yet rich boyfriend, Miriam and her 15-year old son Michael find themselves having to survive on the breadline in the Berlin suburbs. With the focus firmly on young Michael and his experience of being the new kid in a difficult environment, you could be forgiven for lacking enthusiasm for another bleak European film. You would be wrong.
Tough Enough is an excellent film. In the hands of Buck the grim subject matter feels stylish and funny. From the opening Michael, trainers covered in blood, walking down a grey unwelcoming road past a man asleep on a sofa the film displays its strong eye and forthright attitude.
Astonishingly, this is David Krosss first starring role after he was recommended by the directors own daughter. He gives a remarkable performance as a boy tested by a murky underworld. Becoming a useful asset to the drug dealing activities of local gangster Hamal, a character remarks that his use is his honest face. In interview, Buck has complimented Kross on his acting skills saying you can read his thoughts on his face. Hes completely transparent, youre breathing along with him and you always know where hes at.
Former model Jenny Elvers-Elbertzhagen also handles her role as the attractive but inattentive mother perfectly, with the romantic sub-plot between her and the investigating police officer offering up several funny moments. The other characters Michael meets along the way are well-drawn, particularly his two stooge classmate pals, and the complex local bully who targets the new kid.
As Michael becomes Hamals star protg, he makes various drug drop-offs, handling increasingly difficult situations with ease. These set pieces help the story unfold briskly and with pace, setting the film apart from some of the more introspective features out there. Theres no let up as the story unfolds towards its inevitable climax. A lively soundtrack with the likes of The Go! Team and Beck compliment the film well, enhancing the films vibrancy and keeping it feeling young and fresh.
As youd expect from a film dealing with some of these nastier elements in the underbelly of life, it throws up a few violent moments, but ultimately this is a character study of a boy whose strength of character and maturity lead him to forget how young he really is. Surrounded by moral vacuity in a world where violence just happens, he doesnt think further than his own survival and personal gain until hes truly tested and finally forced to grow up.
Having garnered praise and awards at last years Berlin Film Festival, Tough Enough is both enjoyable to watch and has enough depth to challenge, with a star turn from a new talent who well hopefully see a lot more of.