“Gritty” is a word used far too often to categorise films. It appears that anything vaguely realistic or that plays outside of the regular rom-com or blockbuster format of Hollywood is labelled “gritty”, regardless of importance or quality. To give Menhaj Huda’s “KiDulthood” such a label would be in contradiction to the film’s values; it aims to be a blunt, stark, and realistic portrayal of life for kids in the rougher parts of West London by showing the audience some of the things that go down, as opposed to shocking them with the type of sensationalism that has earned several films the dreaded “gritty” label. And, for the most part, it delivers.
The format of “KiDulthood is similar to that of Larry Clark’s “Kids”: a group of arrogant teenagers leave school for the day after a girl they knew committed suicide as a result of bullying, and engage in violence, sex and other activities that will most likely shape their lives forever. Among them is the slightly older bully Sam; the conflicted, headstrong Trife; the amoral girl Becky; and the drug-addicted and soon-to-be teenage mother Alisa.
Suffice to say, “KiDulthood” is not sugarcoated. The most notable thing about the movie is how it juxtaposes style and content. “KiDulthood” is very stylised, with all means of camera and lighting techniques on display, adding an almost glossy veneer to the film. Yet, despite this, the gritty feel of the subject matter is never compromised. Menhaj Huda manages to carefully juggle style and content and somehow create something that looks incredible but also has a good story and message behind it, elevating it above the standard of most low-budget films.
The script, penned by Noel Clarke (who also stars as Sam) is consistently on-point, delivering characters and situations that almost everyone is able to relate to. Drawing heavily from his own experiences growing up in West London , Clarke gives the viewer the experience of being a teenager in those rough areas, and creates characters that we feel as if we already know. This, coupled with Huda’s attempts to keep the film incredibly kinetic creates the raw energy of the teenage mentality. With this, “KiDulthood” hits the viewer with an unflinching extra-sensory experience.
However, despite the kinetic pace and real-to-life story, the characters in “KiDulthood” seem somewhat undeveloped, with main protagonists Trife and Alisa being two-dimensional at best. As for bully Sam and loose Becky, they might as well have “Evil” and “Slutty” written on their heads, respectively, and Trife’s “yardie” uncle is so contrived that he becomes unintentionally comedic. It seems like Noel Clarke used the “universal characters” excuse while writing “KiDulthood”, and in trying to create characters that we already know, rested on his laurels before giving them the complexities in making them seem like the people that we already know.
But when you consider that lack of character development is the only thing that stops it from being a 5-star movie, you start to forgive “KiDulthood” for its flaws. Apart from being a bold, unapologetic movie, “KiDulthood” is cool, and offers 90 minutes of energetic entertainment. Although it is not for everyone, it is still, as they say, good stuff.
Menhaj Huda (director) / Noel Clarke (screenplay)
CAST: Aml Ameen …. Trife
Red Madrell …. Alisa
Noel Clarke …. Sam
Jamie Winstone …. Becky