Director: Menhaj Huda(2006)
Directed by Menhaj Huda, Kidulthood is a 90 minute assault on what we once thought teenagers got up to outside school – and inside! And by what ‘we’ thought I suppose I mean what people hoped was not true, but for anyone who grew up in the city and no doubt have had altercations with some of the less moral members of society, this film is an all too close reminder of what is overlooked every day.
Set over one day, Kidulthood follows a group of friends, focusing on the stories of Trevor or “Trife” (Aml Ameen) and Alisa (Red Madrell) his pregnant ex girlfriend. In the role she was born to play, Jamie Winstone is Becky, every mother’s worse fear for their daughter’s best friend. Sam, played by Noel Clarke – who also wrote the film – is the kind of guy you would cross over the road to avoid, the kind of guy who would have you drift through school in petrified silence to avoid eye contact and unfortunately the kind of guy who could lead some to end their own life.
This is the brutal reality Kidulthood catapults us into. Bullying is a matter of course and for those who can’t give as good as they get, the consequence is even more dire. The opening scenes of a quiet girl getting beaten to a pulp with fists and words is physically painful to watch, partially because of the audience’s unwitting awareness that this is an all too accurate depiction of so many school classrooms around the country.
After the student is found dead, the kids are given the day off school – a fact filled with irony since essentially it is rewarding the reprobates who drove this girl to suicide with a day off! Either way, Alisa and Becky set out to get ready for this ‘sick’ night out, going shopping and blowing elderly drug dealers and their mates before doing copious amounts of coke – most likely all before lunch. The boys on the other hand are getting stoned, playing computer games and getting involved with top of the pyramid drug overlords, also known as their uncle. The latter mainly applying to Trife, our anti-hero – because every film needs a hero apparently.
The gritty realism of Kidulthood is fascinating to watch, like a highly stylised and disturbing documentary, but with excellent acting from these young talents, with particular mention going to Noel Clarke bringing his own unique authenticity to the script and the screen. It is Britain personified on screen, from the actors to the homegrown soundtrack and locations. Kidulthood is a condensed snapshot of teenage life in one day, as if the director gave the camera to some local rapscallions and said “go forth and show us your side – but make it a good one”.
As the title suggests, and while it is difficult to remember while watching the film, these are kids, children playing grown-up as they hurtle themselves towards adulthood and though ‘kidulthood’ might not be a real word, this is indeed a real world.
It is uncompromising and no doubt shocking or unbelievable to some people, but why should it compromise – societies ignorance to these widespread issues in our schools and tower blocks is part of the reason why the first scene of this film is so terrifying and so uncomfortably true.