2006 Certificate: 15

Synopsis

This graphically bleak portrait of bullying, drug abuse, crime and under-age sex among the black and white youth of inner-city London won street credibility money can't buy when The Sun called for it to be banned. Writer and star Noel Clarke bases events on local newspaper stories and condenses them into a hardhitting yarn of everyday hedonism tempered by a makeshift morality.

Director

  • Menhaj Huda

Cast

  • Noel Clarke

  • Jaime Winstone

  • Red Madrell

  • Aml Ameen

Review

This is a world where 15-year-old schoolgirls relish turning tricks with sordid older men for a wrap of cocaine and the cash to trawl the rails at Topshop.

It's Grange Hill meets Boys N The Hood as swaggering adolescents apply their own brutal code to the classrooms that wouldn't look out of place in LA's gangsta central.

Their manor is the gritty northern end of London's Ladbroke Grove as opposed to the stucco-fronted splendour of its southern stretch.

Friendships - based on the risible importance attached to "respect" - are fluid and virtue easily compromised in a chemical rush of no-strings sex and casual theft.

Among the loose grouping of black and white youths are Alisa (Red Madrell) who has just learned she's pregnant by the misguided but essentially decent Trife (Aml Ameen).

Alisa is heavily influenced by her morally-void, sex-for-drugs pal Becky (Winstone) but is the moral anchor of the film - the only one to express any sorrow when a bullied classmate commits suicide (the rest use the resulting day off school to run riot).

It's a long way from Billie Piper's boyfriend in Dr Who for writer Noel Clarke, who also plays viciously-preening bully-boy Sam.

While not exactly the Westway's answer to City of God (as some critics have claimed), it's a craft knife sharp piece of work mercifully lightened by some gallows wit.

The dialogue - a sometimes impenetrable steet patois - has the ring of authenticity and the young stars, despite some wobbly acting, convey a real sense of urban desperation.

It all takes place yards - athough it might as well be light years - from Richard Curtis' Notting Hill and is a refreshingly courageous attempt to portray a generation cast adrift and left clinging to crime.

Kid's stuff it's not.

Tim Evans