A feature debut which despite some imperfections is very appealing.


Pippa Bennett-Warner and Aki Omoshaybi 


In this first feature Aki Omoshaybi extends his range since, in addition to playing a leading role in it, the actor is also the author of the screenplay and the director too. Although his inexperience in these areas shows through at times, Real holds out genuine promise for him in these new fields. It was originally scheduled for release last November when other black British artists had films in distribution but, compared to such works as The Last Tree and Farming, Omoshaybi's approach was markedly different and welcome. These days it is rare to come across a work which recommends itself as being a kindly film, but that's a valuable quality and it certainly applies to Real.


Omoshaybi has said that he wanted to tell a story reflecting relationships in everyday life and that is exactly what he has done. Setting his story in Portsmouth, he places at its centre two people in their twenties, Kyle (that's his own role) and Jamie (Pippa Bennett-Warner). Both of them are black, but that fact is not made in any way central to the story nor is this a tale of hostility or violence. Instead Real observes the way in which Kyle through a chance meeting feels an immediate attraction to Jamie, she being a single mother living with her seven-year-old son, Felix (Taye Matthew) who means everything to her. It soon becomes clear that Jamie reciprocates Kyle's feelings, but both prove to have secrets: neither of them is strong enough to have the confidence to open up to the other preferring to make a good impression rather than to expose their vulnerability.


This situation at the heart of Real is a wholly believable one and I call the film kindly because it becomes obvious that Omoshaybi's approach as a writer is to recognise that people are flawed but to accept that and to care for them regardless. Because he does that here, so do we. The downside of Real is far less important than its merits but it exists on two levels. In the case of the writing some scenes need to be fleshed out more to achieve full clarity and conviction while on the technical side I wish that Omoshaybi had not opted to film in 'Scope (it's rarely a good medium for handheld work since it magnifies the consequent wobbles of the camera and in any case the wider screen fits ill with the intimacy of the story). Nevertheless anyone who admires the family dramas of Ozu will applaud Omoshaybi for the way in which he values everyday life in this film and he heads a strong cast. Fine as the director is in his acting role, it is, I think, above all Pippa Bennett-Warner who shines here. Her performance as Jamie feels totally natural and unforced - and that is as fully Ozu-like as Omoshaybi's belief that the drama inherent in ordinary lives is quite as potent as any more elaborate drama.




Cast: Aki Omoshaybi, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Taye Matthew, Tori Butler-Hart, Amanda Lawrence, Ben Tavassoli, Kola Bokinni, Deano Mitchison, Suzette Llewellyn, Amy Manson, Karen Bryson, Paulette Mbassa, Roshawn Hewitt.


Dir Aki Omoshaybi, Pro Aki Omoshaybi, Screenplay Aki Omoshaybi, from a story by Paulette Mbassa and Aki Omoshaybi, Ph Michael Edo Keane, Pro Des Sofia Stocco, Ed Rebecca Lloyd, Music Luis Almau, Costumes Gaya Yaramyshyan.


Small Long Productions/Fizz and Ginger Films-Verve Pictures.
76 mins. UK. 2019. Rel: 11 September 2020. Cert. 15