The film is a rap musical about the lives of drug dealers and prostitutes on a London housing estate (i.e. social housing). It is the film debut of Ben Drew aka Plan B as a director and it is a tour de force. This film has one important message relayed over and over by images and lyrics: Look what happens to children when they are abandoned, neglected or abused by their parents and adults. It is such an important message and one that society pays lip service to without reflecting upon what it means. Even in an age well versed in psychology popular thinking undermines and denies the significance of events in very early childhood. Drew makes sure that his audience 'gets' this message. Not subtle but very gritty.
The plot involves a set of characters with intertwined fates. We are introduced to three drug dealers: Chris (Lee Allan) a solitary operator and one of the 'Mr Bigs' on the estate, or 'manor', and Aaron (Riz Ahmed) and Ed (Ed Skrein) childhood friends from the same children's home, who are minor players and petty criminals. We are introduced to two prostitutes also: Michelle (Anouska Mond) another solitary operator routinely abused by all on the estate and Katya (Natalie Press) a woman from east Europe who has escaped the human traffickers that brought her to the UK. We learn through lyrics and flashback images the childhoods these characters have survived and the events that lead to their present predicaments. The plot unfolds cleverly bringing all together in a confrontation that proves fatal for one of them.
Ben Drew intends that we understand what made the characters the people they are, perhaps even empathise with them, but not sympathise as such or feel sentimentality for them. This is one of the film's strengths. So Chris is presented as an antisocial person with no care or loyalty to anyone and Ed is a thug who mistreats Michelle just because he can.
The acting is excellent from the cast, including the many minor roles. The soundtrack is fantastic and I bought the CD as I loved the music so much. The film ends with the searing track Falling Down that knots the intestines but my favourite to listen to as a stand along song is Drug Dealer (the story of Chris's life). Drew has used some young rap artists/singers guests on some of the tracks.
The finale is shocking and sad in equal measures but the ending offers hope as three of the characters seem to have enough of an awakening to turn their lives around. Fittingly this occurs because of the plight of Katya's baby, underlining the film's focus upon young children and their need for adults to help them grow into healthy adults that can contribute to society in positive ways.
My only reservation regarding the film is that if Ben Drew decides to make another film I'm not sure he has anywhere to go in bettering his debut.
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