vt 100 Streets; vt One Square Mile
UK / 93 minutes / color / Caudwell, One Square Mile, Umedia, West Fiction, Crossday, What’s the Story, Green Door, Vertigo Dir: Jim O’Hanlon Pr: Pippa Cross, Leon F. Butler, Idris Elba, Ros Hubbard Scr: Leon F. Butler Cine: Philipp Blaubach Cast: Idris Elba, Gemma Arterton, Charlie Creed-Miles, Franz Drameh, Kierston Wareing, Tom Cullen, Ken Stott, Ashley Thomas, Kola Bokinni, Jo Martin, Cherie Duah, Paul Hickey, Jordan A. Nash, Hope Kiernan.
Three tales of life in London, a mosaic of tales that touch each other tangentially or, at most, overlap in slight ways of which their protagonists are unaware.
Max Moore (Elba), once rugby captain of England, is overcompensating for his retirement from the arena by hitting the sauce and snorting the white stuff, not to mention serially cheating on ex-actress wife Emily (Arterton) with a series of floozies, in pairs if he can get them that way. Before the movie started he apparently added to his conquests the nanny of kids Evie (Kiernan) and Leo (Nash)—the last straw so far as Emily was concerned, because she’s booted him out of the house and taken up with an old flame, photographer Jake (Cullen).
Gemma Arterton as Emily and Tom Cullen as Jake.
More than that, through her onetime mentor Terence Harris (Stott) she’s managed to wangle a job back in the theater.
Terence provides the link between this story and the one I’d regard as the movie’s main strand, in terms of both the fragile unity of the plot and the emotional commitment the movie drew from me.
Visiting the grave of an old pal, Terence strikes up an improbable friendship with young Kingsley (Drameh), a petty drug dealer and unconvinced gangsta who’s been assigned to cleaning up the cemetery for his latest bout of community service. As Kingsley pontificates, Terence recognizes in him a born writer and actor, and recommends he go audition for . . . Emily.
Franz Drameh as Kingsley.
But, if Kingsley’s going to pull his life out of the mire—which he very much wants to do—he has to rid himself of his gangsta connections, something not as easy as it sounds. Kid sister Amelia (Duah) believes in him, and long-suffering mom Marie (Martin) would like to, but she’s been disappointed before . . .
The third strand is almost completely divorced from these two; occasionally its chief protagonist will wander into the same shot as someone from the casts of the other two, but that’s about it: they don’t interact. Even so, this third tale, which is very sweetly affecting, doesn’t seem out of place: I never felt the movie would have been better off without it.
Kierston Wareing as Kathy and Charlie Creed-Miles as George.
It concerns cab driver George Radford (Creed-Miles)—who looks like an escapee from Test Match Special—and his wife Kathy (Wareing). Unable to have children, they seek to adopt, but, although he’s the world’s sweetest guy today, George had a couple of football-hooliganism-related run-ins with the law in his youth—has a criminal record, in short. And then, through no fault of his own, he runs over and kills a pedestrian, and the consequent depression not only seems to render him unsuitable to be considered for adoption but also virtually immobile.
All three stories, then, are about people trapped in hells. Is there any way to get from where they are now to where we’d want them to be?
Idris Elba as Max.
There’s a fatalism in A Hundred Streets’s very intelligent screenplay that suggests there might not be. In the opening minutes Kingsley extemporizes:
“Life? That’s just the shit that happens while you’re wishing you were someone or somewhere else.”
Much later, as he and Terence are looking at a gravestone inscription, Terence points out that the sum of an entire human life is expressed in the dash between the birth and death dates: that’s all the biography most of us get.
Elba and Arterton are obviously the big stars here, but their story is arguably the least interesting—or maybe it’s just that I personally find it hard to become as involved in the lives of rich, self-centered people confronting heartaches of their own making.
Ken Stott as Terence.
Both are obviously fine actors, but one could say the same of the rest of the cast. Stott excels himself here—he’s a Noirish site favorite anyway, but I can’t remember enjoying one of his performances so much as I did this one—and Creed-Miles and Wareing, with whose work I’m less familiar, had me rooting for their characters; I’ll be looking out for both actors in future.
But what really struck me was the depth of quite brilliant performances from the black cast. Elba, obviously, but the actor who really made the movie his own was Franz Drameh as the conflicted youth whom fate has perversely slotted into the wrong existence (unless . . .). Backing him up are Cherie Duah and Jo Martin as his sister and mum, respectively; there’s a moment when Martin with a single facial expression (I tried to catch it in the screengrab) made my heart bleed for her.
Jo Martin as Kingsley’s mum, Marie.
Cherie Duah as Kingsley’s kid sis, Amelia.
Some of the lads in Kingsley’s gang deserve notice, too, perhaps especially Kola Bokinni, given what must have been one of the hardest roles in the movie to bring to life as other than a caricature, the thuggish Daniel.
In the movie, Max Moore has established the Max Moore Foundation to promote rugby amongst the young. It appears, too, that Idris Elba is devoting effort to promoting acting among the young. He not only stars in A Hundred Streets, he was one of the movie’s producers and even a supervisor of its soundtrack. He can be reassured, I think, that if the young cast members of this piece are anything to judge by, the future of British acting is in safe hands.