7 out of 10

Review by Matt Usher below

Release Date: 3rd March 2006

Director: Menhaj Huda (Soul Survivor / Coronation Street (TV) / Comedown)

Cast: Aml Ameen, Red Madrell, Noel Clarke, Adam Deacon, Femi Oyeniran, Jaime Winstone, Madeleine Fairley, Ray Panthaki, Kate Magowan, Cornell John with Rafe Spall and Nicholas Hoult

Writer: Noel Clarke



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One thought on “KIDULTHOOD

  1. KIDULTHOOD – review by Matt ‘AdolfHood’ Usher

    How odd to finally watch this seminal Britpic some nine years after its release. How young they all were – Adam Deacon, Noel Clarke, Jaime Winstone, how full of potential, some of which has even been fulfilled. With hindsight it perhaps wasn’t the game-changing cultural beacon that it seemed at the time, but it launched some careers and engendered copycats and homages (and a sequel), but watching it now, it’s difficult to see how it was viewed as the dangerous, ground-breaking iconoclastic shot in the arm that British film needed at the time. It’s a pretty good film, but not much more than that. It’s entertaining, and it’s funny seeing loads of actors I’ve become only too familiar with in this early effort, where, even more comically, they’re all pretending to be naughty school-children.

    It basically plays out as an episode of Grange Hill if Phil Redmond didn’t have to put up with censorship / parental guidelines. It’s all here: bullying, pregnancy, drugs, petty larceny, tedious arguments over sket-possession, under-age prostitution and brutal torture. Oh the innocence of school days!

    The story. A girl has a really bad day at school, getting beaten up and humiliated by classmates and then ignored by her quite incredibly rubbish dad. So she kills herself. This, though, is merely a plot device to (a) give the other kids the day off school and (b) show what a mean lot of greedy, self-obsessed ne’er-do-wells they all are, so we don’t really need to worry about her (which is ironic). In some respects this is very much a Daily Mail version of a multi-racial inner-city school. I expect (and hope) there are dissertations which cover this issue in more depth but I’ll raise the question anyway: if KIDULTHOOD had been credited to a white middle-aged writer and director, would it be regarded as racist? Does it avoid that charge simply by having a black writer and Banglasdeshi-born director (Menhaj Huda –responsible for the dreadful COMEDOWN)? Or are my own prejudices affecting my viewing of the film more than I’d like to admit?

    Anyway, we follow some of the kids as they enjoy a day off school (the film gives the impression that this isn’t an unusual occurrence). Two girls go off in search of drugs and money and dresses for the big party that night. Three boys go off to repossess a games console then lark about in the shops. The family of the dead girl are conspicuously absent (well, the brother occasionally turns up but he’s a bit rubbish and anonymous and doesn’t seem to have much to do. Or does he?) (I’ve just realised he’s played by Rafe Spall – not his finest hour but you’ve got to start somewhere). Japes and jollity go hand in hand with torture and abuse, though I guess that’s the point; this is meant to be one of those ‘this is what the modern teenager has to deal with’ films. Maybe I’m getting old (well, I know that I am) but really it does leave you shrugging shoulders and saying ‘well, get on with it then, see if I care’ and I’m not sure that’s the film’s intention.

    It’s interesting to see the likes of Adam Deacon and Noel Clarke carving out their embryonic screen personas. Deacon creates an excellently repellent idiot. It’s just a shame that all his subsequent screen appearances seem to have repeated it. Clarke at this point is still an interesting actor with some decent TV roles already behind him. It’s a shame he too has decided to go down the route of endlessly repeating the same caricature, but here it is in its original form, and I’m not sure it’s worn well. Elsewhere Aml Ameen gives the film one of those performances which is both impressive yet predictable, and Femi Oyeniran provides slightly self-conscious comic relief.

    Having been written by a boy (as I’m sure Noel Clarke would happily admit he was a boy at the time, but now he’s a man, or rather A MAN), the female characters are there to go shopping or get impregnated or slapped around. It’s a very old-fashioned story and Clarke resorts to some quaint plot devices at times. Red Madrell plays a pregnant girl. But who’s the father: Nice Trife (Aml Ameen, pretty good in the nearest thing to a leading role) or Nasty Sam (Clarke on one-note form)? Aware that her character might be viewed by the audience as some sort of slapper, at the last minute it turns out she’d been faithful to her one true love all along, so that’s all right then. Being pregnant she does of course find herself in peril occasionally. The complacency with which she talks about aborting the baby telegraphs to the audience that she’ll change her mind by the end of the film.

    There are lots of good sequences and sketches (a black teenager trying to hail a cab is a highlight), but as an overall narrative it doesn’t hang together particularly convincingly (the introduction of a sinister uncle seems to be more about effect than narrative necessity). It’s all very energetic and non-judgemental, but it’s not raw or uncompromising. It’s a jolly romp with pretensions. (Or is it cleverer than that? In ignoring the girl’s suicide does the audience become complicit and therefore as amoral as the oiks who make up most of the cast?)

    I expected Kidulthood to be a much darker tale of drugs and death, and I vaguely assumed it would be significantly more violent and a great deal preachier than it is. True, it is violent, but the film has an uncertain tone, larky, sinister, childish, sometimes in a single scene, which I think is probably deliberate. But not always successful. KIDULTHOOD is a film of promise and potential, which is a paradox seeing as it’s a film about the opposite in many ways, and it’s not the film’s fault if subsequent careers haven’t produced the new wave that might have been hoped for.

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