Review by Jack Foley
NOEL Clarke’s follow-up to urban drama Kidulthood is a flawed cautionary tale that struggles to avoid falling victim to its own message.
Set six years after the events of the original, the film picks up as former bully Sam (Clarke) is released from prison for the killing of Trife and sets about integrating himself back into society over the course of 24 extremely volatile hours.
Within moments of being released, for example, Sam is almost knifed by someone seeking revenge for that killing, and so sets about confronting the people he hurt while trying to find out who is after him.
From the start, Adulthood attempts to show viewers the futility of hoodie/knife culture and the repercussions of street violence on both attacker and victim without being overly judgmental or preachy.
But while it certainly boasts some powerful moments and a number of fiercely committed performances, it’s ultimately undone by some wildly uneven characterisation and some needlessly flashy direction.
On the plus side, Clarke’s scenes resonate strongly and he competently conveys the inner turmoil of his character, particularly during hard-hitting exchanges with both his mother and the girlfriend of the boy he killed.
While former EastEnders star Scarlett Alice Johnson offers a similarly complex portrayal of Lexi, a character caught in the middle who has her own demons to conquer.
But such moments are clouded by the unconvincing portrayals of other key characters, such as Danny Dyer’s unconvincing thug and – most noticably – Adam Deacon’s vengeful Jay. Such characters are not only cliched, but feel like they’re attempting to pander to the Saturday night crowd rather than having anything genuinely serious to say.
Jay’s robbery of a rich toff and his girlfriend, during which he asks the girl to expose her breasts and is only prevented from stabbing the toff because of a call on his phone, drew laughs from the audience I saw the film with – which is surely not what the director intended.
But then by employing a pumped-up soundtrack and some visual effects that wouldn’t look out of place in The Matrix, Clarke does himself no favours in terms of maintaining the gritty authenticity that’s evident during the film’s more intimate moments.
The language, too, is typically expletive-laden and almost foreign in places, suggesting that subtitles could and perhaps should have been employed at times.
So, while Clarke undoubtedly wanted his movie to sound a note of caution while speaking about the power of redemption, Adulthood instead finds itself struggling to come of age itself at times.
Clarke himself is clearly a bold filmmaker to watch (as he wrote, directs and stars) and some of his co-stars excel but in the end Adulthood fails to carry the overall impact it was undoubtedly seeking and may even inadvertently appeal to the culture it’s attempting to expose as damaging in the first place. Admirable in intent, but critically flawed in execution.
Running time: 99mins
UK DVD Release: October 13, 2008
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read the review
- Noel Clarke interview
- Scarlett Alice Johnson interview
- Adulthood photo gallery