I Am Urban  (18) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Candida Brady, UK, 2015, 97 mins

Cast:  Richard Armitage, Anna Friel, Fraser Kelly

Review by Carol Allen

Urban is the somewhat odd name of one of the main characters, played in the film by Fraser Kelly.  He is an 11 year old boy living with his mentally disturbed,  alcoholic single mother. Greta (Anna Friel).

The film is based on Bernard Hare’s 2005 memoir Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew  and like the book, is set in the no hope world of the poverty stricken underclass living on a neglected council estates in Leeds in the post Thatcher 90s.  The story  deals with Chop, a fictionalised version of Hare and played by Richard Armitage.  Chop is a disillusioned former social worker, who forms a friendship with Urban and his gang of shop lifting, drug taking children. 

The film was actually made in 2015 and but was never widely released.  It has now been re-edited but despite a good cast, it doesn’t really grip the emotions like it should, while the strong regional accents make much of the dialogue difficult to decipher.

While the film purports to claim Chop as the saviour of the children, he doesn’t really come over as such.  As this pot smoking layabout Armitage, normally a very strong actor, sort of shambles through the film, appearing convincingly stoned most of the time.  And until the very end, he doesn’t seem so much a saviour as an enabler, sitting in on Urban’s gang gatherings and certainly not doing much to discourage the children’s self destructive behaviour. 

Kelly is one of those natural child actors and is very good, though both he and the other children look somewhat well dressed and well fed for the roles they are playing.   Friel is convincing and moving as Urban’s unfortunate mother, who spends most the film drunk, high and screaming abuse.   Her end is inevitable.  She makes a pitiable and very chilling corpse.   Neil Morrissey has a non part in a few short scene,s where he plays chess with Chop and then fights with him, not adding a lot to the mix. 

There are some impressive cityscape shots of Leeds every so often.  Otherwise the film is a rather depressing meander through a world of urban deprivation, which shouldn’t still exist but in many places does, while the many scenes of violence and drug abuse may well be too strong meat for some.

Details of where to view Urban can be found here: