I was not prepared for what I seen in this film. I went into this with the impression that it was going to be some movie about struggling teenagers who turn out alright in the end. I thought that I would leave the cinema saying, 'well that was nothing special.' I was completely wrong. It was one of the best films I've seen all year. Directed by first timer Amma Asante, it is the harsh truth of the state of lower class citizens, one of the most important messages ever sent out of a film. You will leave more determined to be a better parent in the future.
The film draws you in straight away as it begins with a gang of teenagers physically assaulting a middle aged man in the middle of the street. The ferociousness of the beating their giving out made me sit up straight away and take notice. The film then travels back to the events leading up to this attack.
At the beginning we are introduced to Leigh-Anne (Stephanie James). Leigh-Anne is a frustrated, angry teenage mother living in a council flat with no electricity. Her mother killed herself when Leigh was just a child and she also, along with her brother, suffered constant abuse form her father. So with only her brother and his two friends to support her, and with very little income coming in, times are hard for Leigh. Her only reason for living is her daughter Rebecca, and she will do anything, literally, to protect her. Her Grandmother Annette (Brenda Blethyn) feels that she would be more suited to look after Rebecca, which leads to several run ins between the two. Annette isn't the only person she has trouble with, due to her jealousy and racist standpoint, Leigh is involved in constant confrontations with Turk Hassan Osman (Oliver Haden). Another reason for this hatred towards Osman is Leigh is jealous of the relationship he has with his daughter Julie (Sara Gregory).
In one scene we see an example of the lengths Rebecca will go to help her daughter- no matter how brutal. She acts as a pimp to gain £30 off a man who comes looking for sexual service. Rather than have sex with the man herself, she convinces a girl younger than herself, to seal the deal. "Just open your legs and let him do the rest'. It is one of the most startling and shocking scenes of the film.
Leigh's brother Gavin (Nathan Jones), and his two friends Robbie (Gary Sheppeard) and Stephen (Dean Wong), are always there for Leigh. But that usually involves crime and anti-social behaviour. The four of them as a group run riot and it's when they are together we see that despite being a committed mother, Leigh is far from an innocent little girl.
Leigh is regularly visited by a social worker (Marged Esli), and after seeing her chatting to hated neighbour Hassan, she is convinced that Osman is plotting to get her baby taken away from her. One of the most significant parts of the film is when baby Julie is burned by a candle at home. This leads to a string of events that leads to the tragedy that we caught a glimpse of at the start. The aftermath of this is even more tragic.
This is a film that will leave you thinking of the youth out there today and have you deciding whether or not you sympathies with Leigh Anne. I didn't.
All the cast in this film played their roles very well but for me Stephanie James, in the role of Leigh-Anne, stood out for me. Not because she was the lead character but due to the fact that for someone making her on-screen debut and performing so well, I feel that that takes a lot and I'm pretty sure this will not be the last we see of her.
Overall I feel that this is a must see film for all ages of 15 and up, I felt that it should have had an 18 certificate, if not for its stance as a very good movie, but for it's importance.