A Way Of Life

A Way Of Life

****1/2

Reviewed by: The Dude

This is a film that begins and ends with the struggle to fight the destruction of a family.

The main characters are introduced as they kick a man to death, with a baby in a buggy on the side of the road. Leigh-Anne Williams (Stephanie James) is a teenage mother, torn between trying to keep her small family afloat and being a teenager with her friends Robbie (Gary Sheppeard), Stephen (Dean Wong) and Gavin (Nathan Jones). Whether it's love, money or the desire for a better life, everyone wants to be going somewhere they're not, yet feel stuck where they are. When it appears that Leigh-Anne might lose her baby to social services, her anger is directed at her Muslim neighbour (Oliver Haden) across the street. In the misguided tragedy that unfolds, Leigh-Anne, Robbie, Stephen and Gavin unleash their frustration and boredom on him, destroying not only his family, but theirs as well.

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James' performance is nothing short of excellent. She is believable in every way and her constant struggle to act as a mother and a teenager is heartbreaking. Though less time is spent with her friends, Robbie's hope for a proper job is convincingly thwarted, Gavin's struggle between his racism and the girl he loves is real and raw and Stephen's desire to be known as a Welshman and not the son of a Muslim is just as striking. All of the acting is impressive and strong, as is the script and direction by Amma Asante.

Using the beauty of the Welsh countryside as a contrasting backdrop, A Way Of Life personifies the ugliness that can breed in the cities and the devastation that comes from a feeling of helplessness. The story is one people don't like to be told, or pretend to ignore when they pass it on the street, and it is exactly for this reason that you should see the film.

A resonant debut for writer/director Asante and a poignant portrayal of life on the edge.

Reviewed on: 13 Nov 2004
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A heartbreaking slice of teenage confusion in Wales.
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