BrOTHERHOOD

Noel ClarkeUnited Kingdom105 minutes201614AColourEnglish

Writer-director-star Noel Clarke completes the British crime-drama trilogy he began with Kidulthood and Adulthood, in this gritty tale of an ex-con whose dreams of settling down and going straight run up against the long memories (and itchy trigger fingers) of a crew of old enemies.

Noel Clarke's films kickstarted a new genre of British cinema. Set in streets that London's wealth and privilege rarely reach, Clarke's KiDULTHOOD and AdULTHOOD told stories of young, Black, and heavily policed characters forced to navigate the harsh realities of urban survival. Now, with BrOTHERHOOD, he turns to the question of what happens when street survivors grow up.

Years after the events of AdULTHOOD, Sam Peel (Clarke) has completed a prison sentence for murder, started a family, and tried to put his past behind him. But Uncle Curtis (Cornell John) comes looking to avenge his nephew's death at Sam's hands. Sam tries to maintain his peaceful life with Kayla (Shanika Warren-Markland) and their children, but as the threat from his enemy grows, so does the urgency of his need to protect his loved ones.

BrOTHERHOOD is more than a juicy crime drama with stylish and snappily paced set pieces. It's also a rich portrait of contemporary West London. These are the same few square miles seen in Notting Hill, but in this film they're multiracial, polyglottal, and volatile. Clarke writes characters who speak in the neighbourhood's constantly evolving argot, and populates BrOTHERHOOD with actors who look, sound, and move like the real thing. There's even a standout role here for grime musician Michael "Stormzy" Omari.

Clarke shapes this final film in the trilogy so as to tell its story from the perspective of his maturing hero: a man hardened by prison, betrayals, and persistent threats from his past life. It manages to include surprising flashes of humour as well. As Sam and his old friend Henry (Arnold Oceng) head into battle one more time, they wonder if they're actually still "down" — if that's even the word for it any more.

CAMERON BAILEY

United Kingdom + IrelandRelationshipsDiscriminationBlack + African Diaspora