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America's 'KIDS' and girls of 'THIRTEEN', meet the UK world of 'KIDULTHOOD'....
Over the waters, it seems anyone not from England is in love with that wonderful Richard Curtis-like view of the globe, which is neither bad or drastically inaccurate, but covers a very small percentage of what life in the UK and particularly ordinary UK people are actually like.
Refreshingly comes "Kidulthood", an all too accurate if at times sensational version of average school-kids in London. We meet an assortment of characters, most of them only likable on a limited level, who's only motivation is to get through each day and fill the voids with partying, be it with drugs or sex, or petty crime. The film takes us through two days of their lives and how each character, be it the misguided Trife (Aml Ameen) or the sexually motivated Becky (Jamie Winstone) as well as others, on the day when a big party looms and the suicide of a classmate seems lurking in the background.
Growing up on a London housing estate and seeing the changes throughout the years has made me over-critical of films depicting this. The dialogue always being too polished or too neat, the accents as caricatured as Dick Van Dyke's cockney chimney sweep (the recent "Green Street" and anything Guy Ritchie suffered from this in spades) but refreshingly all this is absent here. The performances are very real, so real, that it would be easy to confuse them as weak, particularly with characters such as Claire, played pitch perfectly by Madeleine Fairley with her words always having that hollow ring of someone saying what everyone around her wants to hear, rather than what they're really thinking. The language is fluid and the style completely believable; this is an excellent window into an average group of modern teens, as depressing as that is to admit.
Marrying it to the excellent visual style and the lack of obvious moralising is both a strength and a weakness. Visually fast paced, using sliding split-screen and cinema scope, married to the creme of British gangster rap, this looks great, hiding it's indie roots and looking more like Steven Soderberg's 'Ocean's Eleven' than Larry Clark's 'Kids'. The pros of this are the audience it needs to reach will interpret this as 'cool' and maybe will end up seeing the characters as teen movie icons, more than stopping and thinking what the overall message is.
It's disturbing, mostly in small gestures rather than the grand shocking ones. A pretty teenage girl is bullied, punched with a bone shattering crunch as her attacker screams at her to pick up the ring that flew off her finger, Claire is intimidated by her boyfriend by him warning that he'll tell everyone she is a lousy lay (and that's the clean version) with personal hygiene issues, as she pathetically begs him to stop; it's certainly not a film for those seeking a rose-coloured view of society.
"Kidulthood" is a much needed reply to the belief that England is a pretty cool place and it's teens as going through a harmless phase. It is entertaining but without selling itself out, despite an ending thats a little too explosive to believe.
Not since Garly Oldman's 'Nil By Mouth' has a film seemed so richly realistic and it's to the director and the writer's credit that they have achieved this.
Whilst sad, it's not as 'slash your wrists' depressing as you might assume either; the power of the film is one that lingers after and hopefully it is that, that might reach to people not only affected by what they've seen but most of all identifying with it.
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