In my mid-teens I was more the geeky type who hung around the library at school rather than a street lurker taking drugs and speaking in that fake 'gansta' accent which has become so popular over the last decade. Although this film reflects a social group I don't really identify with, I can still appreciate the very personal stories which weave together in this British film which speaks to an audience often overlooked - for many there are scenarios and characters in Kidulthood with whom they can identify.
This initially feels like several disjointed stories taking place shortly after the suicide of a girl, a victim of bullying. But the stories start to intersect and end up interwoven in a series of events which neatly come together and reach a tidy conclusion throughout course of the day this film is set. The film doesn't shy away from portraying the drugs culture and the sexual activities of these fifteen year olds. Their behaviour is violent, and regularly vulgar but the youths here aren't demonised, by getting to see their personal circumstances we can see how they are often misunderstood and mistreated - something even they fail to recognise.
The synthetic dialect and accent along with the macho positioning is pure pure showmanship, and inside these are still kids with insecurities. As the characters develop we see that those who take drugs want escape, those who are promiscuous want affection, and those who are violent need to feel in control of a life controlled by others. Kidulthood doesn't glamorise drug taking or underage sex, for those involved it all seems so cool but for us the viewer we get to see their microcosm from the outside and instead of looking on in awe we recognise how sad it really all is. The kids may seem strong but in many cases they are being manipulated by adults, but they find comfort in belonging to a group but it's a way of life which can trap them into not realising their true potential.
I said at the start of this review that the social group these kids belong to isn't one I identify with - but I can still identify with the characters. They sometimes feel like caricatures of themselves but overall Noel Clarke has done a tremendous job in writing a screenplay where the characters are believable, and perhaps more importantly, representative of many other teens out there. Kidulthood is tinged with tragedy but we also see moments of aspiration and hope, this isn't a film desperate to be gritty and cool - it seems more concerned with bringing to the screen an honest presentation of what modern life is like more many teenagers out there. I've read criticism of the acting but I thought it fit the tone of the film well, it's naturalistic and doesn't feel overly acted.
The Blu-Ray transfer is impressive - especially seeing as this is a low budget feature, I expected the picture to be grainy and perhaps a bit washed out - but it's surprisingly punchy and full of detail. The audio has been well mastered to make the most of the much applauded soundtrack (though, it's not to my taste to be honest!) and the music is very clear, more so than the speech. The speech isn't quiet or muffled, but in comparison to the music there is less clarity there. There's no subtitles track, I personally didn't need it but the lingo, thick accent, and the speed of conversation may mean that some (such as those hard of hearing) may struggle.
In a nutshell: I think some people have focussed too much on the sex and violence when they look at this film - instead this is best considered as an insight into a youth culture where the human stories and personal circumstances are as important as those any in any other walk of life.