Ill Manors

This gritty urban film came out in 2012 by rapper Plan B aka Ben Drew. It was highly praised at the time as being far from a predictable pop star vanity project. It’s a grim, fast paced but at times touching and even humorous view of the lives of young people on east London’s housing estates.

The film opens with a young black man trying to buy dope with money his white friend stole from his mother, and is intimidated into attacking the same friend. We se him drawn into the gang culture, sleepwalking until it’s too late.

So many story lines – the son of a prostitute attacked by white supremecist who becomes a drug dealer, several orphans who become hardened criminals. Cuts between a sweet young blonde boy, then he is grown up, a drug dealer in a prison cell. You hear men shouting insults, threatening each other, while the main character sits and smiles grimly. How can these men hurt each other? What is the point of their shouting? The are reminding each other that though locked up they are still hard. They are still real men.

Free from prison, the drug dealer goes in search of his phone. It seems a prostitute has lost it, so they drag her along the high street, pimping her to make her pay for it. Then a friend turns up with his phone, so she is free, but then it she is held responsible for the other phone. She demands the money earned be paid but instead she is dragged off again to pay her new debt. It’s so grim it’s almost funny. A world where the women seem to be perpetual victims to the men, but they sometimes manage to turn the tables, if only temporarily.

As I said, this is grim, but it shows how kids get into bad circles, so there is also a hint that there is also a way out, at least for some. These young people behave badly, but there is a real sense that they are damaged, but not broken by their world. There is still hope.

But most of all this is a wakeup call to those in charge. A cry of pain and rage from people largely excluded from political debate except when they become crime statistics.

Featured towards the end is the incredible John Cooper Clarke, with his Pity the Fate of Young Fellows, an incredibly archaic term for these modern, angry young men.

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