Friday, 11 June 2010

For all the flaws of Noel Clarke's feature debut as co-director (with Mark Davis) - namely a hectic, overly aggressive sense of pace and attitude - you've got to give the guy credit for at least attempting to address the issues of Britain's youth. For sure, he may display more bravado than actual talent, but this is surely expected, given his inexperience. Fresh off his scribbling on similarly pitched urban flicks Kidulthood and Adulthood, he now clearly wants to up his game by stepping behind the camera, and for that, he is to be applauded.

In, he attempts the fabled Robert Altman approach of overlapping and interlocking several narratives. Any comparison should stop right there however, and exist solely as that, a comparison. For one thing, Altman wasn't exactly familiar with the multi-racial London streets as Clarke clearly is. Secondly, Clarke himself is no Altman (at least not yet), but is simply indebted to that fluid, dynamic style of directing. Like most things in the film, he's never quite able to pull it off, but the bravado and ambition is certainly there. Who knows? In a decade's time we may be seeing real magic on-screen. For the moment, we must settle for 'noble attempt'.

The title derives from the tagline: 4 girls, 3 days, 2 cities, one chance. The 4 refers to the main characters. Emma Roberts (niece of Julia) is Yankee abroad, Joanne, working a part-time dead-end job in a grubby convenience store under the eye of odious manager and criminal, Tee (Clarke). The second, Shannon (Ophelia Lovebond) is perhaps the moral heart of piece, perceiving a degree of neglect from both her lonely father (Sean Pertwee) and her friends. Tamsin Egerton's Cassandra meanwhile takes the tale across the pond when she flies to New York to meet her new Skype boyfriend, only to find events spiralling out of control; and lesbian Kerrys (Shanika Warren-Markland) comes into conflict with her lawbreaking stepbrother Manuel (Gregg Chillin) after she commandeers Cassandra's flat without her knowledge. Looming in the background is a recent diamond heist that will eventually impact on all the characters...

It's a commendably energetic project and there's little doubt that Clarke is perfectly comfortable detailing the multicultural aspects of modern day Britain. In fact, this may be where the story is at its strongest, the naturalistic street patter and colourful racial jibes lending proceedings a suitably zesty edge. Where he stumbles is in the 'less is more' approach: a sonic bombardment of drum n' bass plus some relentlessly off-kilter camerawork doesn't always equate to edge, particularly in the Shannon and Cassandra segments. He also struggles to find his feet narratively, choosing to wind back each section of the story to its source before starting another, clearly lacking the confidence to fully splice them together.

That is until the second half takes off like a rocket courtesy of Markland's terrifically charismatic turn as the ball-busting yet loyal Kerrys, a portion of the film that fuses ethnic awareness with genuine pathos and wit (a take-off of David Fincher's Panic Room is brilliantly funny). Having thrown all his balls into the air, Clarke has his work cut out resolving them all in Roberts' climactic segment, but the actress not only convincingly fits into the Cockney ghetto; the narrative and our emotional response are also tied up marvellously, cleverly forcing us to review events we witnessed earlier. It's a rare film that finishes stronger than it started, and a shot of adrenaline into the stuffy arm of outdated cinematic British gender politics. On this basis, Clarke has more than one chance of capitalising on his potential to become one of our most prominent filmmakers.


  1. Dear seano22,

    I love this review. very detailed, congrats!

    But one minor error. Emma Roberts is not the daughter of Julia Roberts, but the niece. She's wouldn't have the name Roberts if she came from Julia, no?

  2. you're right! my bad! changes have now been made to the review :) cheers for the feedback!