Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Elasri's engaging performance and de Jong's vibrant directorial style connect well to create an energetic and genuinely unusual little film."

Ayoub (Ayoub Elasri) is 17. He doesn't really look it. His body is still slight and adolescent, making him and his gang of similar kids look ridiculous as they square off against muscled-up guys a few years older. Fortunately the older gang sees this and is more inclined to respond with laughter than violence, so a sort of truce exists on their housing estate. The older guys race around and take drugs on street corners. Ayoub and his gang try to look cool by lounging against the local dealer's purple lamborghini (one of several references to another Prince). But Ayoub is restless. He's deeply in love with Laura, the girlfriend of one of the older guys, in a full on, wide eyed, loud synth soundtrack, John Hughes way. He's also angry to discover that his sister is dating another of them. His uncontrolled emotions threaten to shatter the peace and create a dangerous spiral of violence.

Prince is a film that mingles the horror of gang violence with the joys of youth in a way that can be disorientating but ultimately feels real. There are no moral judgements here that are out of keeping with our hero's perspective, and he's still young enough to take a lot of things in his stride. The owner of the purple lamborghini, Kalpa (Freddy Tratlehner) is genuinely unhinged and highly unpredictable but seems to take a shine to the boy, giving him his only real hope of a short term status upgrade. Even with help like this, however, he has a lot to learn about how to impress girls. No matter how popular those TV cookery shows are, walking up to Laura in the street and offering to cook her a lasagne is never really going to cut it.

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The darkest parts of this film revolve around Ayoub's home situation. His father is a drug addict whom he sees only when he sneaks out, and dysfunctional as the older man is, Ayoub often has to be his supplier. Being the man of the house means the boy assumes responsibility he doesn't know how to handle. He tries to fix up his mother through online dating but he's also experiencing the usual teenage squeamishness about her sexuality. When he finds out about his sister and Ronnie (Peter Douma, who bullied director Sam de Jong when they were at school together), he responds with violence toward the women in the house, which they can't (or don't want to) respond to effectively. It's a dangerous situation that doesn't bode well for his later years, but before the story is told he will have been forced to confront his feelings and do some growing up.

Elasri's engaging performance and de Jong's vibrant directorial style connect well to create an energetic and genuinely unusual little film. Its psychedelic sequences sometimes leave viewers unable to distinguish between the real and the imaginary, but the film's surrealism makes sense in the context of the drug use it depicts and its young hero's state of mind. Teenagers will find this a lot easier to connect with than most adults. though it goes to dark places, it's ultimately a joyous film which properly understands what's important at that age, and such works are few and far between.

Reviewed on: 05 Feb 2016
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A teenager turns to violence to try and impress a girl.

Director: Sam de Jong

Writer: Sam de Jong

Starring: Ayoub Elasri, Oussama Addi, Elsie de Brauw, Olivia Lonsdale

Year: 2015

Runtime: 78 minutes

Country: Netherlands


Glasgow Youth 2016

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