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iLL Manors | reviews, news & interviews

iLL Manors

iLL Manors

Debut feature fom rapper Plan B hits us in the ribs

'iLL Manors': a metropolis piece on how lives randomly interact with different lives

There was a strange sense of ghosts, or rather absent presences, in the screening room where I saw Ben Drew’s iLL Manors (that orthography reflects the chosen spelling of the film’s title, and Drew is also as well known as Plan B, from his rapper music career).

There was a strange sense of ghosts, or rather absent presences, in the screening room where I saw Ben Drew’s iLL Manors (that orthography reflects the chosen spelling of the film’s title, and Drew is also as well known as Plan B, from his rapper music career).

The late Alan Clarke turned up first, with a vhs of his Scum. Peter Mullan was down from Glasgow with NEDS, not the only Glaswegian visitor, along with Ken Loach, of the early vintage films. Gary Oldman was in from the East End, and of course Ray Winstone was already there in the company. Shane Meadows, certainly. Tim Roth, too. Some international visitors, principally from Latin America, made it through the Heathrow passport queues on time.

The non-professionals, of whom there are many, are as at home in their skins as the professionals

Which is to say that Manors is as emotionally bruising a ride as they come, the kind of film you don’t want to watch, but you don’t leave. The riots. Broken Britain. Some unspeakable acts of cruelty up there on screen. You don’t leave because there is the integrity, too, telling stories – in this case loosely six overlapping London plots – that are out there, even if more normally seen by the police than by cinema viewers. Director’s notes tell us all of them are based on true stories of those he knows, or others passed on from acquaintances, or the press.

It’s an East London story. Too complicated to retell in the details, because it’s a metropolis piece on how lives randomly interact with different lives, because that’s how life throws it at us. The last time I saw this done so well – because making these confluence pieces is really complicated – was in Jasmin Dizdar’s much undervalued Beautiful People. That had the drugs, and the Balkans as well. Drew has the drugs, and there is some Russian presence out there. About as damaging as David Cronenburg’s Eastern Promises, for a view of the capital city. Dizdar conveyed the sheer confusion of big city life with a final Balkan element of comedy. Drew hits us in the belly with something much more Northern European.

And it would be iniquitous to single out any acting performance, except to say that the non-professionals, of whom there are many, are as at home in their skins as the professionals, who include Natalie Press and Riz Ahmed (pictured right). Cinematogaphy is obviously gritty.

Then there’s the music score, from Drew in his Plan B rapper capacity. That really raises the dilemma. Does it push the film into entertainment action for rapping to cruelty? Would it have worked just as well filmed just as drama? Having thought long and hard, I endorse the director’s decision.

Where’s it going, is another question. Made on a mini-budget, it could just join the ever-depleting ranks of a British film that turns a profit, since Drew’s music admirers will certainly turn up at the box office, as will plenty in East London. Completed apparently just a couple of months before UK release, it hasn’t done the festival circuit. It certainly will. Hope they have psychiatrists on hand. Not excluded that the British Council will adopt it as this year’s calling card.

Strange, although not strange at all, that in a film where we see so much, and I mean so much, damage, there remains the sense of survival. Because there was another visitor as well, the one from Athens who always, always arrives late. Catharsis. At least I hope so.

iLL Manors is on nationwide release from June 6

Watch the iLL Manors trailer


  

It is the kind of film you don’t want to watch, but you don’t leave

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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