Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Famotibe is impressive in the central role, wide-eyed and charming yet quickly able to shift his register when things go awry."

Wale (Raphel Famotibe) is one of those kids whom the young offender programme has worked for. Convicted in his teens for handling stolen goods, he's spent 18 months training as a mechanic. Now back at home with his mum, he's full of hope and ambition, determined to build an honest career. But like all teenagers, he's naive. His trainers didn't help him learn life skills and his background makes him the perfect patsy for a stranger with a nasty agenda.

Famotibe is impressive in the central role, wide-eyed and charming yet quickly able to shift his register when things go awry. Unfortunately the usually reliable Jamie Sives offers no such complexity as his nemesis. He may be doing what the director wants but his formulaic scheming psychopath detracts from what is otherwise an interesting piece of work. The effect is a bit like watching an audition, the teenager's skill all the more impressive because he's acting as if a producer were reading the lines to him flat.

Despite this central flaw, the film carries a fair measure of dramatic tension. Indeed, the formulaic aspect may work for a youth audience. Scenes before the penny drops in which we can see Wale's vulnerability - to several types of potential danger - are particularly effective. He's at that stage in life when so much depends on luck that he has to take chances, and the lack of an effective post-release support system only makes this worse. Given his background, more conventional routes to employment are effectively denied to him. Criminal friends hang around, ready to suck him back into their way of living. And then there's the reality of being a young black man in London; on top of everything else, he has to deal with racism.

There's a lot of good material here so it's a shame that the film opts for such a blunt story structure when something more nuanced would have made better use of the talent involved. Nevertheless, it's an effective calling card, and Famotibe - who recently had a small role in Possum - deserves to get noticed.

Reviewed on: 11 Nov 2018
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Wale packshot
A young man with a background as a youth offender tries to build a career as a mechanic but is framed by one of his clients.

Director: Barnaby Blackburn

Writer: Barnaby Blackburn

Starring: Raphel Famotibe, Roger Jean Nsengiyumva, Jamie Sives, Clare Perkins, Sura Dohnke

Year: 2017

Runtime: 20 minutes

Country: UK


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