ill manors is the directorial debut movie from the rapper, turned actor, turned film-maker, Plan B, AKA Ben Drew. What makes this such an astonishingly impressive film, is the fact that it comes from a first time director and was shot on the extremely limited budget of £100,000. It looks like a much more polished and expensive production.
Ben Drew insists that this is not autobiographical, but is a party based on real events and local urban legends. The film plots several days in the lives of several Forest Gate residents, who are all in some way connected.
Aaron (Ahmed) is the friend and go-for, to drug dealer Ed (Ed Skrein). Aaron starts to see Ed in a new light when he forcibly pimps out crack-addicted prostitute Michelle (Anouska Mond) in order to pay for the phone, he thinks she stole.
Meanwhile, Kirby, played excellently by Drew’s godfather, Keith Coggins. Has just been released from jail. Kirby used to be the local kingpin who is now forced to work for his former go-for, Chris (Lee Allen). Kirby wants his empire back, but Chris isn’t gonna let him have it. Katya (Natalie Press) is a trafficked sex slave from Eastern Europe who escapes her kidnappers and goes to extreme measures in order to protect her baby. Apart from Riz Ahmed, the cast is made up of mostly unknown actors, which gives the film an added sense of realism and authenticity that doesn’t come with most “urban” dramas.
The direction is slick and inspired, Drew employs a few techniques, such as non-linear storytelling, as well as a mix of mobile phone footage and split-screen action, that could have felt gimmicky or clichéd, in the wrong hands. He flashes us back through the characters lives to show us their childhoods. Even though some of the characters are overly violent and unlikeable, you still care for them. Everybody in this film is a victim in some way. Drew provides the score to the film, but the tracks never feel intrusive. The music has a purpose that adds another layer to the story.
If the film has any flaws, it’s the running time. It’s just over two hours. But, that is a very minor quibble for such an impressive debut.
Plan B announced last week that he is taking a year off, I can’t wait to see what he comes back with.