A Brixton Tale
Directed by: Darragh Carey & Bertrand Desrochers
Broadcaster: Selected cinemas
A Brixton Tale is a powerful portrayal of the inequality and injustice that still exists within contemporary society.
As someone who grew up on the Barrier Block estate, A Brixton Tale’s setting allowed the film to take on a personal feel to me. Every so often I caught a glimpse of familiar stairwells and front doors from the estate. I should also declare that I know one of the producer’s – Dennis Gyamfi – a young talented man I worked alongside during our time at Lambeth Youth Council.
Brixton features throughout Darragh Carey and Bertrand Desrochers’ directing debut, delivering a compelling story that explores the impact of class, race and other forms of inequality via the relationship between the affluent Leah (Lily Newmark) and shy young Benji (Ola Orebiyi).
From the start, the film sets out a clear course in dealing with modern strands of inequality. The film’s portrayal of Leah, a YouTuber initially filming around Brixton scouting for subjects for a documentary, allows the film to explore contemporary ideas of privilege and agency.
That Leah shows no sign of discomfort in breaching the privacy of Brixton residents during her search, while hiding parts of her own life from Benji, throws into sharp relief the growing privilege of privacy in a world where more and more of our lives are online and public spaces are more watched than ever.
It is in this social commentary that the film stands out as an important watch, providing a fresh look on class and race disparity in our society by highlighting an issue that must rise up our agendas.
I was also pleased to see the film make a point about the need for Benji’s life to be portrayed as “gritty” and “edgy” at the expense of more real moments between Benji and Leah, showing how marginalised communities often suffer from overly negative portrayals in art and media – confirming rather than challenging the stereotypes of consumers.
This is aided by the fleshed-out and well-acted characters of Leah and Benji. Leah comes across, in the main, as naïve and ignorant of her privilege rather than malevolent – and Benji is successfully portrayed as a shy, considerate and trusting young man navigating through the difficulties of growing up in a society set up against him.
The film’s ending also explores issues of injustice in the legal system and is a welcome reminder of how justice is often not fairly distributed in our unequal society.
At times, the film does fall into a certain level of cliche that make several scenes less relatable than they should be. A party of Leah’s friends in particular features scenes and characters that come across as too convoluted and one-dimensional to be as believable as other parts. While these scenes and characters do help to serve a purpose for the plot, a more accurate portrayal of these situations would have aided some parts of the film to hit home more poignantly and perhaps provide more relatable examples of privilege and discrimination throughout the film.
Overall, A Brixton Tale is successful in delivering its message in a powerful, entertaining and believable manner, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about contemporary privilege and inequality.