Gone Too Far! review (London Film Festival)

part of my Directed by Women series
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Gone Too Far! green light Shanika Warren-Markland Adelayo Adedayo

MaryAnn’s quick take…
Something like a Shakespearean comedy, full of highly amusing, sharply drawn characters and offering wicked insight into how identity is shaped by city living and immigrant culture clash.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Give a couple of guys a camera and the notion to make a movie on a London estate (the British equivalent of US public housing projects), and in what direction do they generally go? Gangsters. Give the same stuff to a couple of gals, and what do they come up with? Something like a Shakespearean comedy full of highly amusing, sharply drawn characters whose bumbling around on a single day in south London offers wicked insight into how identity is shaped by city living and immigrant culture clash.

Bola Agbaje’s Olivier Award–winning play, which the writer adapted herself for the screen for director Destiny Ekaragha, gives us hapless 18-ish Yemi (Malachi Kirby), who is stuck dragging around his hopelessly uncool older brother, Iku (O.C. Ukeje), just arrived from Nigeria; bad enough that Yemi, who grew up in London, doesn’t even know this guy, they’ve been separated that long, but Iku hasn’t got a clue how to behave or dress “properly” for his new home. This is not going to help Yemi’s cause as he pursues gorgeous but bitchy Armani (Shanika Warren-Markland), who does not suffer the uncool… which in her eyes encompasses Yemi, too, though she may have some use for him.

With Iku in tow, Yemi runs around working-class Peckham, supposedly on a quest to find the grocery items Mum (Golda John) forgot and needs to make supper, though he’s more concerned with orchestrating a “casual” encounter with Armani just to be cool and say hi. The exasperated conversation between the brothers, the snide mean-girl talk Armani dispenses to her sidekick Paris (Adelayo Adedayo), and the cutting insults that delineate the teen hierarchy all around create a wise, observant portrait of, ostensibly, one narrow slice of London culture, yet one that will be recognizable to anyone who has to deal with other human beings anywhere, and has felt the pressures of conformity and tribalism.

In what is basically the Shakespearean comic-relief slot, three younger teen boys who hang around the estate and are constantly bumping into everyone else keep up a Greek chorus of commentary among themselves on the action, dissecting perfectly normal, not-at-all-odd realities, such as how Armani, as a black Londoner of West Indian extract, refuses to have anything to do with black Londoners of African extract, because ewww.

Beautifully written, presented with a bracing crispness, Gone Too Far! is simply marvelous.

viewed during the 57th BFI London Film Festival

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Thu, Jan 23, 2014 9:57pm

How does one see it elsewhere?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  AA
Thu, Jan 23, 2014 11:30pm

At the moment, you don’t: it doesn’t have distribution. But positive reviews might help it achieve that.

reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Fri, Jan 24, 2014 4:08pm

Not the sort of thing I’d normally go for, but it sounds really intriguing. I’ll keep a look out.

Mon, Oct 06, 2014 2:35pm

You failed to mention all the racism

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Edstar
Mon, Oct 06, 2014 8:24pm

It’s now been a year since I saw the film, so perhaps you could refresh my memory with some examples?