The last - and least - of Noel Clarke's trilogy about growing up black in London.


Written and directed by its star Noel Clarke, Brotherhood completes the trilogy that stated in 2006 with Kidulthood and continued with Adulthood two years later, a film that also marked Clarke's directorial debut. Those films had some quality as an insider's view of London's black community and as a portrait of youngsters caught up in drugs and violence on the streets. Clarke played Sam Peel whose actions in Kidulthood led to a death for which he received a prison sentence of six years. In Adulthood he emerged from jail as a reformed character but one unable to escape his past. That same theme is carried further in Brotherhood. Here Sam, now older and wiser, has embraced life as a married man and father but once again his former violence brings about events that he cannot control as Curtis (Cornell John), a victim of his past actions, seeks revenge on Sam and his family.


Comments by Clarke himself suggest that in this film he is seeking to reflect his own maturity as a family man through Sam's experiences and the theme of someone now rejecting violence but unable to escape it could make for valid drama. Yet that possibility is frustrated here by the fact that, although Clarke's technical skills as a director are growing and his on-screen presence remains strong, his writing has lost its sense of authenticity, the very quality that marked out the earlier segments of the trilogy. His screenplay for the 2010 drama lacked all conviction and that happens again here as the film moves uneasily between dramatic action and comic moments, sometimes resulting in laughs when none was intended. Although the ever-reliable Shanika Warren-Markland performs persuasively as Sam's wife, the tale told quickly becomes larger than life, a fiction with a loud soundtrack to play up the fights and with scenes of nudity to be trendy.


Clarke does deserve credit for his persistence in creating independent films that enable black British actors to bring to the screen stories about their section of the community in movies aimed more at mainstream audiences than at arthouse film enthusiasts.  But that fact makes it all the sadder that his unplanned trilogy which started out with such promise should end up with a film that despite good intentions rings so false.




Cast: Noel Clarke, Arnold Oceng, Shanika Warren-Markland, Cornell John, Jason Maza, David Ajala, Red Madrell, Michael 'Stormzy' Omari, Fady Elsayed, Daniel Anthony, Tonia Sotiropoulou.


Dir Noel Clarke, Pro Jason Maza, Noel Clarke, Gina Powell, Maggie Montieth and George Isaac, Screenplay Noel Clarke, Ph Aaron Reid, Pro Des Monica Black, Ed Tommy Boulding, Music Ton Linden, Costumes Andy Blake.


Lionsgate/Unstoppable Entertainment/Dignity Group/Cipher Films-Lionsgate.
104 mins. UK. 2016. Rel: 2 September 2016. Cert. 15.