It’s difficult to think of any other singular UK drama that was responsible for producing so much young talent more than Channel 4’s eighties drama Skins.
During its run it produced the likes of Nicholas Hoult, Kaya Scodelario, Jack O’Connell, Dev Patel and Daniel Kaluuya, who just so happens to be the only Oscar winner to date on that impressive list.
It makes perfect sense then that he has teamed up with Channel Four’s film division Film Four for his directorial debut set on the futuristic streets of London.
London, the near future, and social housing has been removed, forcing those on low incomes to protect themselves any way they can. For one community that meant creating the Kitchen, an off the books housing project for the less fortunate, which is where Izi (Kane Robinson) lives.
Izi has a pretty good job, working for a cremation company, which means he’s saving to get out, and be one of the lucky ones.
One day at work he comes across a name of a dead woman, whom he just so happened to have had a relationship with, back in the day. There for her is her young son Benji (Jedaiah Bannerman), whom Izi takes pity on, considering his precarious position in society now.
Benji soon finds himself drawn into the appealing world of the Kitchen, unaware of the dangers that lurk there.
Kaluuya’s first stab at directing is a joint affair, along with Kibwe Tavares, who is also making his debut. Although they probably benefitted from each other being there, it doesn’t appear to have been useful for the film, which is missing a singular vision.
The story, which Kaluuya also co-wrote, is also a little thin on the ground in detail and personality. For instance, the Kitchen suffers from regular raids by the authority, but it’s never disclosed as to why they do it; they kick the place up a bit, knock a few people about, but that’s about the extent of it. Not only does it feel pretty pointless, it’s also never explained.
Then you have the main character Izi, who is the archetypical person who wants to better themselves. Izi doesn’t say much, which may well be a way of reinforcing his machismo, but it makes him rather dull, much like the film in general.
It’s left to Bannerman, in his first ever role, for most of the emotional heavy lifting, which it transpires is just a bit too much of an ask for his emerging talent.
The film does well in capturing a sense of community, which flourishes within the Kitchen, but without a strong cohesive story, doesn’t really amount to much.
There’s also a role for Arsenal legend Ian Wright as Lord Kitchener, the community’s radio DJ, but he’s kept isolated in a room on his own for the majority of the film, with no interaction with anyone else which is sad for such a team player.
The main problem with the film is that it lacks focus and an identity of its own; you get whiffs of other films in what ultimately is a patchwork blanket of a film, made up of bits and pieces of other ideas, without securing its own.
It also struggles on the pacing front, with a lack of energy from the off; this is supposed to be a representation of one of the most vibrant cities in the world, albeit a future version, and yet nothing of any real note happens.
It’s a film then that presents itself more as a learning opportunity for Kaluuya as a director, which will hopefully serve as lessons learnt, and hold him in good stead for any possible future endeavours behind the camera.