Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Way of Life

Ooh, this movie was awful - in the sense that it was so well made and real, that the story being told was an awful one. I only went along to the Academy to see it because I was still in town when it started (and was the only occupant). Even before the credits start, we see a group of teenagers kick a man (Hassan) to death. He turns out to be a decent, hard working fellow, with a family he's had to look after as his wife died. His only crime is that he's a "Paki" (although he has lived in the UK for more than 30 years, longer than his attackers, and is actually Turkish, but they're so caught up in their sense of grievance that such fine distinctions are beyond them).

Leigh-Anne is the worst of the lot: she's a single mum, living in an awful part of (I think) Swansea in Wales. Her mum killed herself, her dad is no help. The father of her child has long since gone, she has no money, is engaged in an ongoing battle with "the Social" and various other forms of officialdom. She does love her child, I'll give her that, and that is part of what inspires her to awful behaviour - she pimps out a 14 year old girl to a man my age and can't see anything wrong with it, has the cheek to use the proceeds to buy shoes from the girl's mum for her kid. Stephanie James, apparently in her first role, was fantastic - completely compelling when she had to threaten to get what she wanted, tender with her kid, very believable as someone who saw herself as having no options at all.

The three guys she hangs around with are a little more nuanced. Gavin is her brother - he actually falls in love with Hassan's daughter, and is at least conflicted over his role in her father's death, although he does participate. Robbie seems like a nice bloke, even has plans to get away or at least get a job (he interviews at an old people's home) but, unfortunately for him, is in love with Leigh-Anne - the one gentle moment in the movie is when she realises it. But this means he has responsibilities: when Hassan seems to be threatening her by talking to the Social to have her baby taken off her, Leigh-Anne wants something done to him, something bad. The third guy, Steve, was a bit harder to make out: he has a dream of changing his name, and thus his fortune.

I was amused, in a perverse sort of way, that the lead up to the brutal scene with which the movie started happened in a library - I was thinking that this was probably the first time any of them had been in one, and the only reason they went in was so that Leigh-Anne could clean her kid up. They're stalking around the shelves after Hassan and follow him outside - an odd touch here was that all four of them put the hoods over their hoodies over their heads, sort of gangsta style.

But the movie goes on after Hassan's death - Leigh Anne is taken in by the Police and finally gets that this act she caused, in the interests of keeping her baby, actually is the first thing she's done that means her baby will be taken off her.


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