Young hearts run free

I just went to see a preview of Adulthood, the sequel to Kidulthood, which was on the telly at the weekend and is still on the iPlayer for those in the UK.

For the uninitiated, Kidulthood was released a couple of years ago and followed the lives of a bunch of teenagers in London, with a hefty dose of sex, drugs, violence and recriminations. Adulthood picks the story up six years later (despite the films being released two years apart). This is no bad thing, as in the first film it was clear the cast were a lot older than their characters, particularly writer Noel Clarke, who is 33 and played an 18 year old in Kidulthood, which was somewhat unbelievable.

Because they were written by Clarke, who is older than me, I refuse to be intimidated by these films, despite every other word being ‘blood’, ‘breddrin’, ‘cuz’ and other such young person speak.

I’m glad I watched the two films very close together. The first film cried out for a sequel and the second film would make very little sense without the first. Anyway, if you haven’t watched Kidulthood, go watch it, then come back and read the next bit, otherwise it’ll be way too spoilery for you.

Got that?

Right, I assume I am addressing those who have seen the first film now (or have no intention of seeing either).

Adulthood is a curious film in many ways. It feels as though the story is more ‘complete’ than that of Kidulthood, although that completion is not without cliche – major cliche in some places. I imagine it was written, or at least conceptualised, at the same time as the first, because plot threads carry on fairly seamlessly, and some minor players in Kidulthood become much more vital this time around (and vice versa). One of the problems with this is that they clearly conceptualised a plot strand for Jaime Winston’s Becky across the two films, yet Winston presumably couldn’t commit, so instead she is ‘gone’ and we have her never-before-seen cousin fulfilling essentially the same role, and it feels like the script had been hastily rewritten (much like when Pepper left Neighbours and they got Fitzy in).

The focus of this film is Clarke’s Sam, whilst many of Kidulthood’s biggest characters have smaller roles. I’m not overly convinced of the wisdom of this. Sam does give it a hook and allows Clarke’s moral message to be portrayed, but as he was more of a menace at the side than the heart of the film in Kidulthood, it doesn’t quite feel right. Perhaps Clarke wanted to up his profile?

Adulthood is a moral film, or it at least attempts to be. Its morals are not quite as muddied as Kidulthood’s although there are elements where they are confused (the emphasis on being anti-violence in a film peppered with violence on different levels; its representation of women). And Kidulthood worked better because the characters were younger, trying to figure out morality. The morals Adulthood does try and get across are communicated in quite a ham-fisted way, which will convince very few of the ‘yoots’ they are targetted at.

That doesn’t mean Adulthood is a bad film. It’s enjoyable and emotive, with a soundtrack almost the equal to its predecessor’s. But despite the title, the one thing it hasn’t done is grown up. In many ways it is more simplistic and immature than Kidulthood, which is bad, but it has more narrative drive, which is good. It also throws in a couple of Doctor Who references (Noel Clarke plays Mickey): Camille Coudri (Jackie Tyler, Rose’s mum) has a very small cameo seemingly for no other reason than she is Clarke’s mate. Likewise, the actress who played Sam’s mum in the first film has transformed into Adjoah Andoh for this one (aka Francine Jones, Martha’s mum). The film also has lots of funny moments throughout.

My biggest issue with both films is that they try too hard to be cool, to be ‘street’, to be edgy – and whilst they probably achieve that more than many films, I’m pretty sure they’re just a bit too OTT to cut it.

Nonetheless, they are a good watch – but don’t expect anything too challenging or life-changing.


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