100 Streets (15) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Jim O’Hanlon, UK, 2016, 93 mins

Cast:  Idris Elba, Gemma Arterton, Tom Cullen, Charlie Creed-Miles, Franz Drameh, Ken Stott, Kierston Wareing

Review by Carol Allen

 This is a promising idea which takes three stories set in different social milieus inside the same area of London, which are almost a representative demographic – the very rich, the “hardworking ordinary working family” and the underprivileged.

The very rich are wife and mother Emily (Arterton), separated from her husband Max (Elba), who is a former rugby superstar, struggling with sex and drug addiction but still hoping to get his marriage back on track.  The aspiring working class is represented by cab driver George (Creed-Miles) and his wife (Wareing), whose dreams of adopting the child they long for are blown apart when George is involved in a road accident.   Young Kingsley (Drameh) is a small time drug dealer living with his mum on a council estate, who forms an unlikely friendship with ageing actor Terence (Stott), which opens the door for him to a new world.  But his present life and the people in it refuse to let him go.

Although there is some effective use of well known and not so well known London locations – the Thames embankment features a lot and so does the Battersea Arts Centre – the fact that the 100 streets of social contrast are in Chelsea isn’t at all clear.  George’s little terraced house and Kingsley’s estate could be anywhere in the East End.  Even so the cinematography does give us a good feeling of London.

The film also has a really good cast.   Elba and Arterton are always worth seeing and Elba, who was also one of the film’s producers, was possibly attracted to the project  by the fact that the role gives him some strong dramatic opportunities.   While Creed-Miles and Stott in particular put almost convincing flesh onto the bones of their rather thinly written characters.  The problem with this film though is the script.   Rather than the story growing out of the characters, they seem to have been shoe horned into a pre-determined concept and their actions often appear artificial, as the film attempts to make connections between them.

Some of the most alive scenes are those between Kingsley and Terence but the relationship is underdeveloped and Stott has little to work with.  We go into Kingsley’s background in considerable detail but much of the gang’s patois is difficult to hear or understand and the set up is cliché.  In one scene Kingsley is pressured by his drug dealer bosses into shooting someone. In contemporaryLondon the problem now tends to be knives rather than guns – guns are for movies!  Kingsley’ also has a lot of unwieldy and obvious voice over dialogue to indicate his poetic soul.

The story of Charlie and his wife has more of a sense of reality but their story is somewhat sidelined when they disappear from the film for much of the second half to accommodate the other characters’ histrionic antics.

Max and Emily both live in beautiful homes pointing up the social gap between them and the other characters.   Max’s flat is obviously one of those “luxury apartments” going up everywhere in London.  As skilled and talented actors they do a good job with poor material.   Again the characters they are working with are more than somewhat banal, trite and unconvincingly written.

In summary, good idea, first class actors, sadly underdeveloped script.