Kidulthood full movie review - There's little-to-no Kidding around here, as Clarke and Huda deliver a gutsy and raw detailing of the desperate living of young Londoners.
British film Kidulthood begins with the battering; bullying and eventual self-inflicted termination of a young girl's life, whom was still at school, and then takes a bit of a
collective feel-good nose-dive from there into a sordid world full of the sort of confrontational content that'll make your stomach churn. If a parallel universe existed in which mostly immoral and sadistic acts were as vital to life as breathing, I'd guess it'd look a little like the sort of world the array of characters inhabit here. The film is a low-budget 2006 piece, a deeply affecting film about some deeply disturbed people struggling with their lives and relationships in a London just as busy, bustling and dangerous as those whom we spend time with. The film might be read into as a cautionary tale directed towards audiences of a similar age to those explored within, with writer Noel Clarke, by way of Bangladeshi born director Menhaj Huda, predominantly detailing the lives and times of a number of kids and hoodlums. His characters are generalisations of people that exist, in that we have the drug dealer; the drug addict; the teenage girl addicted to sex; the pregnant teenager; the marginalised youths and the kid whose criminal life is teed up for him thanks to family ties to 'the life'. These archetypes are given collectively degrading and immoral characteristics and tastes and condensed further with the very worst attributes and attitudes before being made into flesh and blood.
Clarke's film follows these generalisations as they negate and venture their way around a hostile and dangerous world. There is even a scene nearer the end when an individual is invited into a house party with a bunch of others kids as the parents are away. Even the greeting carries an air of hostility; an air of dislike in the tapping of the person's shoulder before being welcomed in. This is the sort of world we're in, one of apparent disdain and disgust for almost all involved. Indeed, we are plunged into it by way of a playground sequence, a place full of all sorts of sordid activity; a place devoid of any respect for the authoritarian figures in the form of the teachers, with the film establishing a sense of the criminally infused in its attention to hierarchy as different kids interact, some thugs apparently being 'bigger' than others.
Away from this desolate space of detest, comes video-game fuelled days off of nothingness accompanied with limited discussion and whatever juvenile behaviour one can muster whilst out and about. The film will revolve around an array of colourful characters, both male and female of varying races and ethnicities but mostly always thugs and criminals with a foot already on whatever immoral career ladder they're most certainly on the way to the peak of. Clarke himself plays bullying 6th former Sam, a foul creation the writer of the piece sinks his teeth into and plays himself with effective menace as his character is placed on a strand that sees him skulk around the film's broad canvas looking for three kids whom have wronged him. This, as Ray Winstone's daughter Jaime falls into the role of Becky with her feet hitting the ground running; her character a disturbing creation, a sort of pure and unadulterated physical manifestation of nymphomania made flesh whose friend, Alisha (Madrell), is just as young but pregnant and already experiencing the results of such actions. And yet, Becky continues her lifestyle; can she not see the clue?
But the closest the film provides us with a lead of any kind is in the form of young black schoolboy Trevor (Ameen), a character deliberately set away from the other juveniles during the opening sequence in the school yard; a lone boy adrift by himself as he engages in criminal activity for his uncle, all by himself and isolated away from the others. The character of Trevor is one of very few to have been given an arc of sorts, something that sees him become grossly acquainted with the realities of violence in and around both his person as well as his family as he realises carrying on down a similar path will only prolong a life closer to these things. Clarke seems inspired by 1995 French film La Haine, itself a film not driven by plot or dialogue but about three different males, each resembling the three predominant ethnicities in contemporary Paris. Here, Kidulthood's covering of the exploits of three young men, of whom are again of varying ethnicities, as they romp around inner-London dodging cab fares and being accused of shoplifting before not even having the courtesy to avoid revelling in the false claim, is clearly inspired.
The underlying sensation of hatred burns and boils, simmering in the form of the mostly masked brother of the dead girl from the opening whose presence is predominantly in the background as he seeks revenge on those responsible; and while this study of social realism is delivered under a broad canopy of something resembling anything but a neo-realistic aesthetic, the punchy and cut-and-thrust atmosphere the film carries aids in not only keeping the targeted audience glued to the action, but also the eerie sensation that something is about to boil over and explode wholly prominent. Clarke and Huda refrain from making the error of glamorisation, with few characters coming away from the text particularly well off and mostly suffering by way of either physical of psychological degradation. Their film is part revenge piece; part hybridisation of verité with a rapid, music video look and part coming of age tale unfolding in this terrifying basin of organised crime and threat. Clarke has made the disgusting and deprived engaging and dramatic without ever being exploitative, neatly seaming the film together with opening and closing acts of unmitigated acts of violence which are linked to one another born out of the hatred that manifests because of bullying, and it's terrifying to watch.