Adulthood



Drama (2017)
92mins S Korea

Director: In-Seon Kim
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland



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LondonNet Film Review
Adulthood

The news headlines make grim reading. Teenagers are dying on the streets of London every month, the victims of a disenfranchised youth culture which seems determined to make its voice heard with knives and guns...

Adulthood. Pathé Distribution UK & Ireland.The cycle of violence continues unabated, tearing families apart as politicians bicker over possible solutions to the escalating crisis. Cinema has always sought to reflect contemporary concerns so screenwriter and actor Noel Clarke's hard-hitting snapshot of 21st century life on the streets of the capital couldn't arrive at a better time. Purporting to reflect the shattered dreams and senseless actions of a lost generation, Adulthood paints a gloomy picture of a world dominated by sex, drugs and intimidation, where respect is earned by pummelling a rival into submission.

This sequel to Kidulthood is a vanity project for Clarke, who takes control behind the camera as well, replacing director Menhaj Huda. Admittedly, the 22-year-old Londoner delivers the most compelling performance in the film but you'd expect nothing less when he gifts himself the best lines. Unfortunately, his ear for dialogue hasn't improved a jot in the intervening years and the performances of his co-stars feel as fake and contrived as some of the conversations between the two-dimensional characters, laden with expletives and street slang.

Adulthood. Pathé Distribution UK & Ireland.Six years after school bully Sam (Clarke) killed Trife (Aml Ameen), he is released from prison and returns to his old stomping ground in West London, still plagued by guilt. A young thug attacks him and issues a warning that his days are numbered. So Sam sets about tracking down the people he hurt, like Trife's girlfriend Alisa (Red Madrell) and the dead boy's pal Moony (Femi Oyeniran). None of them are in a mood to absolve the ex-con of his sins, not least Jay (Adam Deacon), who wants Sam to pay the ultimate price. For a few thousand pounds, he can hire some local thugs to teach Sam a brutal lesson in forgiveness. Meanwhile, the dead man walking befriends Lexi (Scarlett Alice Johnson), who has her own cross to bear.

If Adulthood is an honest and unflinching representation of modern Britain then heaven help us. Clarke doesn't just embrace cliches, he elevates them to giddy new heights, populating the streets with bad boys who posture and cuss with no conviction whatsoever. The plot barely hangs together. A final showdown between Sam and Jay in a car park teeters on the verge of laughable because Sam mysteriously knows ahead of time where the climactic confrontation is going to take place, and hides a baseball bat in the vicinity. His spooky foresight doesn't allow him to escape unscathed though. Clarke's muted portrayal of his sorrowful loner contrasts with the screeching of some of his co-stars, while Johnson, best known as Vicki Fowler in EastEnders, is virtually unrecognisable.

Adulthood. Pathé Distribution UK & Ireland.Clumsy writing continually takes us out of the moment. Even a simple matter like one character offering another a drink sounds forced. "What you got?" asks Sam. "Water, maybe some Um Bongo in the cupboard," replies Lexi. His inability to generate empathy for the characters as they wrestle with their demons undermines any good intentions. We feel particularly ill at ease when Clarke tries to shock us with Lexi's lurid confession about a sexual assault. We should fight back tears of disgust and rage but instead we stifle a yawn.

- Jo Planter

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