In 1777, an English writer Samuel Johnson wrote: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” And surely he was right. The UK’s capital has always been full of life as well as diverse in every aspect of its existence. Jim O’Hanlon set his debut feature – A Hundred Streets – against London’s cityscape and follows the lives of a group of people who are hopeless individuals of different background and race; I’m not sure if O’Hanlon’s characters are tired of London but – without a doubt – some are tired of life.
Max (Idris Elba), a former rugby player, struggles to cope with alcohol addiction; he somewhat enjoys taking drugs (he is surely tired of life) and his family life is not perfect either – him and his wife Emily (Gemma Arterton) – former actress – are estranged as Max had an affair with their kids’ nanny. Emily, on the other hand, is not innocent herself as she is having a liaison with a dashing man whom she met while performing arts at the theatre years before. Parallel to the couple’s story there is one of cabbie George (Charlie Creed-Miles), a humorous guy, who – with his wife Kathy (Kierston Wareing) – is trying to adopt a child. Their ordinary lives are disrupted after an unexpected accident on the road; as a result of it, the adoption process is at risk. The narrative gets a little bit disorderly as more characters are introduced: a young drug dealer Kingsley (Franz Drameh), whose ambition of becoming an artist is stronger than that of being a criminal, and a retired actor Terrence (Ken Stott), who builds an unusual friendship with Kingsley.
Even though Max and Emily are the protagonists of O’Hanlon’s film, it feels like their story is – at times – unsatisfactory, while the connections between all the characters are superficial as well. That said, their stories are not unpleasant; they are convincing and – probably – there are Londoners who could relate to some of them, particularly the story of Kathy and George, as well as that of Kingsley. But then, one might wonder: what is the film all about? What did the director try to say through all the characters’ stories? Don’t do drugs, be faithful and stay away from alcohol?
When it comes to acting, Idris Elba’ and Gemma Arterton’s characterizations of Max and Emily respectively were excellent; Gemma’s very emotional and complex performance really impressed me, and Elba was just being Idris Elba – always on top of everything with his superb acting. The film showed that both are capable of delivering extraordinary performances. Franz Drameh’s portrayal of the drug dealer was solid and believable and, above all, it has put this young actor on everyone’s radar. He can easily compete with John Boyega, as their talents are equally great. That said, unfortunately yet another filmmaker stereotyped black people and put them on the shelf as drug dealers and consumers. Kierston Wareing – known for her remarkable performances in Ken Loach’s It’s a Free World and Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank – delivered well as usual; she definitely has a potential and a lot to give as an actress. The rest of the cast conveyed their roles satisfactorily.
The cast was definitely the strongest point of the film and not so much the narrative. A Hundred Streets would have been more engaging if the characters had more in common and were better developed, and with the final scene slightly overshadowing the entire film’s story, A Hundred Streets turned into a big drama with a cliché ending. Camera work was very strong though – it followed each character with great precision, and the close ups and long shots were superb, including some really gorgeous shots of London. All in all, A Hundred Streets is a decent debut feature from the TV director Jim O’Hanlon, good to watch with a cuppa on a Sunday evening.
Written by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna
All photos © A Hundred Streets
A Hundred Streets is available on Amazon.