Thursday, October 31, 2019


Sometime I'm going to have to go back and see just how often a movie being obviously four-walled at the Regent coincides with Indian holidays having Fresh Pond full up with imports and not able to give movies with this profile - festival appearances, small but not microscopic distributor, a few recognizable names - their two shows a day. It's Diwali, so Momentum has to go with the Regent as a backup, and there may have been three of us in a theater designed to hold much more than three. You can feel the contractual obligation in the release - I suspect the studio is subsidizing two employees, and neither one is even opening the concession stand

It's not a terrible movie, though. The basic topic is good enough that a similar short was Oscar-nominated this year, and it's the sort of passion project that gets noteworthy people to sign on and can make the folks involved raise their game. I don't know that I'd be terribly interested in seeing Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje direct another movie and I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't want to - he may really just have wanted to make this one - but he does enough here to make the possibility interesting. And I can't say I didn't get what brought me into the theater - Kate Beckinsale and Gugu Mbatha-Raw give strong performances; indeed, I'm not sure I've ever seen Beckinsale better.

Anyway, it's got one more day at the Regent and it's available on VOD (click below! I'm so close to a payout!), and it's something different. I certainly don't regret catching this one despite the low-ish star rating.


* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 29 October 2019 in the Regent Theatre (first-run, digital)

Farming is clearly a labor of love for filmmaker Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje - he's previous made it as a short and his name is all over the end credits - and you can see that he's got the ambition and drive to make a great film on a subject that is very important to him. Unfortunately, the story he uses to explore the broader subject may be a bit too much for an actor directing his first feature - between the sheer amount of what's going on and the main character who has difficulty communicating, the film never quite gets across everything that Akinnouye-Agabje wants to say.

The title comes from the practice where immigrants to the United Kingdom would place their children with white, working-class foster parents while they worked and studied (presumably in close quarters inhospitable to children). Enitan Bada was placed with Ingrid Carpenter (Kate Beckinsale) in 1967, when he was just six weeks old. By 1975, Enitan had half a dozen "siblings", and if he was a withdrawn, unusual child in the Carpenter household, he was utterly unprepared to return to Nigeria with his parents. He is sent back to Tilbury, and eight years later Enitan (Damson Idris) has so internalized the racism to which he's been subjected that he starts running with a group of skinheads, though leader Levi (John Dagleish) treats him more like a pet than a compatriot.

That "Eni" would wind up running with skinheads certainly seems like a great, powerful hook for the film - a similar story was Oscar-nominated in the Best Documentary Short category earlier this year - and Akinnouye-Agbaje plays that part of the film as raw as he can. He never lets the skinheads seem like people who ironically understand what it's like to be marginalized and ostracized in the same way that Eni does; they're monsters through and through, sometimes presented like zombies in the menacing way they surround their victims or how broken faces don't much faze them. Levi isn't charismatic in a way that is likely to attract the audience, but brutal enough to cow Eni, whom he regards the same way as his pet snake. John Dagleish captures that ridiculous and threatening sneer, and Damson Idris does a fine job of both showing Enitan imitating it and showing incoherent devastation as he is continually and inevitably rejected.

Full review at EFilmCritic

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