Judge Dylan Charles feels old.
Before adulthood comes Kidulthood.
A bunch of inner-city school kids in West London are given the day off when one of their classmates commits suicide. Now let loose in the city, the kids engage in various illegal activities: selling drugs, mugging women, and threatening to kill one another. It all leads to a final explosive confrontation that night.
I've gotta get something out of the way here and now: I had the damnedest time figuring out what people were saying in this movie. I grew up watching British sitcoms on PBS, enjoy Guy Ritchie movies and Doctor Who, and have at least a passing familiarity with the variety of accents on the British Isles. Yet I still ended up turning on the English subtitles.
Part of it was the slang terms. I don't know what "sket" or "low it" mean. I have a general assumption, but I'm not really sure. Kidulthood made me feel like a bitter old man who complains about kids today; their rap music, their hula hoops, and their…I just don't know. Thanks Kidulthood!
One thing that came through crystal clear was the violent, seedy life that these kids have been growing up in. They drink, smoke cigarettes, smoke pot, and snort coke. There's a constant power play within the schools, as one group beats up another group and vice versa.
The film follows several clusters of people. There's Trife (Aml Aneen) and his group as they hit the streets and face off with Sam (Noel Clarke). There's Alisa (Red Madrell) and Becky (Jaime Winstone) who spend their day acquiring and selling drugs and then buying nice clothes with the money they got from the selling of the drugs. They also do a fair amount of drugs, which is a little alarming considering that Alisa is pregnant. I would doubt the veracity of how truly awful these kids are, if the writer Noel Clarke hadn't said he basically lived this kind of life when he was younger.
This leads us to the film's main problem: These kids are awful. They're ignorant, loud, violent, drug abusing little monsters. Yeah, they're the result of society basically leaving them in the dust. Yeah, the film makes the very strong point that this is a cycle that results from racism, poverty, and violence begetting violence and that someone sometime soon needs to put a stop to the cycle. But lord almighty, it's hard to find a sympathetic character in this bunch. And when it's hard to sympathize with someone, anyone, it's hard to give a good goddamn about the movie.
Granted, Alisa does start to become a more likeable person, especially in comparison with her friend Becky, and Trife does experience some personal growth. Still, there's a lot of irresponsible, thuggish behavior before that rolls around.
Considering the topic and the message of both Clarke and director Menhaj Huda, perhaps it's asking a little too much for a somewhat likable human being in Kidulthood. As I hate children in general, it's probably a no-win situation anyway.
There was a lot on the screen that was hard to take, and the cast was more than up to handling whatever the story threw at them. This is especially remarkable given that, I'm guessing, most of them were around high school age or a very little bit older. Hopefully they've gone on or will go on to do more in the future.
Huda kept things very gritty and shot the entire film on location, adding to the realism of the whole thing and keeping it very grounded. He does not flinch and does not look away from the uglier side of what's going on in the story.
The disc has one of the better making-of featurettes I've seen. It's well organized and informative, and I actually wanted to watch it from beginning to end. The deleted/extended scenes, on the other hand, were a bit of a waste. I had trouble even seeing what the extended portions were and I was glad the deleted scenes weren't in the final cut.
Huda and Clarke created a film that was undoubtedly very difficult to make, with a brutal, no-nonsense way of exposing a problem affecting British inner-city kids. Not guilty.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
• "The Making of Kidulthood"
Review content copyright © 2008 Dylan Charles; Site design and review layout copyright © 2016 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.