Every day brings another headline about young people, gangs and guns. In this coverage – which seems expressly designed to spread panic – attempts to understand what is going on are drowned out by repeated calls for a crackdown.
So a film by a young, black and working class director about the lives of people coming of age in multi-ethnic west London has enormous potential to undermine the myth machine.
Noel Clarke’s Adulthood has captured urban youth well – the music, clothes and slang all fit.
Even some of the ropier performances and scripting enhance the film’s sense of authenticity – though this can wear pretty thin.
Adulthood is the sequel to Kidulthood, which was attacked in the press for “glamorising” teenage violence. It is likely that this latest film will endure the same criticism.
Though the charge is misplaced, both films do portray brutal street realities without a series of morality warnings attached.
Adulthood features Sam, a former gang member who has been released from prison after a six-year stretch for a killing. He returns home to discover that there are plans to avenge the person he killed.
He is desperate to keep out of trouble but has little alternative other than to find who is threatening him and a means to stop them.
The film plunges us into a world of drug use, petty crime, extreme violence and meaningless sex.
We see characters that have moved on from lives as gang members who are forced into uncomfortable reunions with former friends whose lifestyles have developed rather than changed.
This tense dynamic between the two groups runs through the film.
That Adulthood explains its characters’ lives as the result of differing choices made is its key weakness. The context in which those choices are made is largely absent. You can search the film for explanations of the alienation, violence and drug dependency, but will likely leave the cinema none the wiser.
Nevertheless, Clarke is at least trying to grapple with the issues of the day. It’s a pity that he doesn’t quite answer the questions that he has set up.
Directed by Noel Clarke