Emulating the formats used in literature movies have developed two major structural presentations to tell a story, feature length film, the cinematic novel and the short film standing for the ever popular short story. There is also a cinematic variation of the collection grouping a series of thematically connected stories. This methodology allows a director to ease his transition to a longer more involved presentation. New filmmaker whose career I’ve been following is Noel Clarke. I initially noticed him in his regular role as boy friend, Mickey Smith during the Billie Piper era of the long running showcase for British talent, ‘Doctor Who’. He took a wise course in building his career going from acting on a popular television series and first getting his cinematic feet wet by authoring the screenplay for the British teen angst drama, Kidulthood’ then building upon this success by directing its follow-up film ‘Adulthood’. Now, with the film reviewed here he co-authored and directed a film in four movements, ‘188.8.131.52.’ I originally obtained this movie as a region 2 disc but thankfully it has received a Blu-ray release for the enjoyment of a broader audience here in America. Many young star that gain a degree of notoriety particularly on a youth oriented television series rush into a film career. In many cases they engage in vanity projects centered around them long before their level of experience can handle the task. Clarke has been going at redefining his career in a meticulously planned out road. He has worked his way up to directing, albeit in the space of only a couple of movies but he his building upon acting and writing experience as necessary to his training as a filmmaker. This is not to imply this movie is a grand masterpiece but it is definitely a film or merit and a part of a growing oeuvre of an upcoming filmmaker. In fact this movie is one that inherently needs a degree of imperfections in order to remain faithful to the themes the story explores. This demonstrates Mr. Clarke is on the right path to make a significant mark in the world of independent film.
The central cast for the film as a whole and driving force for each of the component segment is a group of girl friends; Jo (Emma Roberts), Shannon (Ophelia Lovibond), Kerrys (Shanika-Warren Markland) and Cassandra (Tamsin Egerton). Their friendship provides the connective tissue brining the individual stories loosely together. Clarke is stepping out of his usual strengths of the angst of inner city kids by focusing on a tight knit group of girls. This is not the Disney sugar coated vantage point such movies typically hold but a far more realistic glimpse into girls on the edge of adult independence. The title of the film is reminiscent of the opening of the Tony Scott TV series, ‘Numbers’. The tag line used was ‘4 Girls, 3 Days, 2 Cities, 1 Chance...’ it is a contrivance but it does offer a suitable summation of the story. In a well thought out fashion the script introduces various critical elements to the story that are then blended through Clarke’s direction into a workable and reasonably satisfactory conclusion. In order to accomplish this he had to always retain the central plot line as he purposely goes off on the individual tangents.
The first portion focuses on Shannon. She has been long contending with the disruption at home resulting from the constant fighting between her parents. As she return to their flat the problems between her mother and father have finally reached the tipping point and her mother has left for good. Finding her father sitting by himself is too much for Shannon to deal with so she grabs a few odd sundry items and storms out. This is the kind of situation that Clarke has been honing; the disenfranchised teen and he has developed a real knack for presenting it without sliding into melodrama. What follows has to be understood in context to fully appreciate. Initially Shannon turns to her friend, Jo, but she was rushing off to her job. Later Jo calls Shannon to her workplace but a disagreement ensues as things get heated up from a boy they all know, Dillon (Adam Deacon), kisses Jo upsetting Shannon. This might appear to be a barely necessary side track but it is indicative of the confusion inherent in teen relationships. It then turns out that Shannon had grabbed a tin of Pringles when she ran off from home that a mysterious woman is seeking. Apparently they have something to do with ’15 diamonds’. One turns up in Cassandra’s possession while the can has fallen out. Confused yet? It’d more difficult to describe than it is to follow on the screen.
The story is then taken up with Cassandra. She is off to New York City to take up with a man named Brett. She met him online and in a predicable matter of course the couple soon has sex. The next morning Cassandra finds her belonging gone except her handbag with has another of the mysterious diamonds. Infused in the plot at this point is a note from Shannon’s mother and a fake Brett who has been stalking Cassandra hacking into her computer. Another altercation ensues and Cassandra leaves to flee back to London.
The third part of the film centers on Kerrys. Along with her other friends she breaks into Cassandra’s beach house to hangout. Her brother had a similar idea and locks the girls in the panic room in order to throw his own party. Two of the guys in attendance, Dillon and Smoothy (Ashley Bashy Thomas) have the remaining 14 diamonds.
The final installment is held up by Jo. She works at a 24 hour market with Angelo (Jacob Anderson) and their new manager, ‘Tee’ (Noel Clarke). It turns out that Tee has been in collusion with Dillon and Smoothy intent on delivering the diamonds. At this juncture the clues that have been laid out carefully finally gel leading to a conclusion purposely left somewhat open ended.
The movie displays a potential that is exciting to experience. The film is admittedly disjointed with the various threads are excessively tangled but after a second viewing I began to see a method to the madness. The lives of this group of young people were is a state of utter turmoil. They are attempting to navigate an escalating set of circumstances beyond their control and understanding. Clarke infuses the drama with a mystery that occasionally steers off track but that too is part of the loose, character based style he has been developing. I am anxious to see what this creative young man has in store as his career and talent continues to flourish.