28 May 2009 | bob the moo
Similar to Kidulthood in that it is effective in its breadth but doesn't have the substance or complexity that one might hope for
I wasn't all that taken by Kidulthood when I watched it a few years back but it was solid enough and professionally made so I thought I'd follow it with the sequel. Set six years after the original film, we join the majority of the original cast on the day that Sam comes out of prison after doing his time for the killing of Trife. Some of those involved have moved on, some are still in the same situation they were then while others have nothing but that night on their minds and are seeking revenge on Sam for what he did – either by their own hands or by any one of countless up and coming boys looking to have a name made for them.
In picking this plot in particular the film sets out its stall very much to be about these events rather than the characters – again this is the same as the first film, which didn't do a great job in creating people so much as it did in creating a reasonably good narrative flow. For many this will be enough and the film does have enough of a "world" to it that it is easy to watch it. The problem comes when you want to be convinced by it, because the story isn't really strong enough (or logical enough) to really engage. It is not that it doesn't have stuff going in in sufficient quantities (it does) it is just that they offer nothing beyond this. Don't get me wrong, I found it easy to watch and get into but it felt like little had been done on the actual characters themselves. Physically it has been worked out where they are and attitude-wise they all have a broad sketch to them but this doesn't get translated well into words in the actors' mouths and as a result the film does feel superficial. The additional downside to this is that, although the film doesn't glamorise these lives, by not being more honest and complex it does feel like there is a certain amount of validation within it.
Clarke has done pretty well as writer/director/star though and he has produced a solid film where others may have only made a mess. OK it is not perfect but it is a good stab. His Sam sums up the strengths and weakness – he is supposed to be tired of violence but yet doesn't show that in his actions while any hurt in him is shown in simple ways. He holds the attention well but not below the surface. The supporting cast do pretty well but all have the same "lack of complexity" issue to deal with in their performances. Johnson, Deacon, Drew and others are all pretty good while Madrell returns for a few scenes and continues to be cute.
Overall Adulthood is a good companion piece to Kidulthood because they both carry the same strengths and weaknesses. The setting and events engage on the surface and have a good pace to them but the lack of anything decent below this is a problem that affects how much one gets into it but also how well the cast can do with their thinly developed characters. Worth seeing even if it could have been better.