I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
With her first feature film, British writer-director Jo Morris gives us a parade of misery set in Dagenham, a working-class area on the eastern end of greater London, revolving around a neglectful, emotional abusive mother, Kim (Doraly Rosa) — though she unironically believes she’s great at parenting — and her contentious relationship with her just-out-of-prison career-criminal boyfriend, Billy (Bradley Doughty).
There’s not a likeable character in the messy ensemble, nor even an intriguingly unlikeable one, and the plot is so unfocused that it never even settles on a protagonist: there’s also Kim’s teen daughter (Lily Newmark: Solo: A Star Wars Story), her young dumb criminal boyfriend, a couple of cops, and a few other randos in the mix. But this isn’t anyone’s story or journey; in fact, plenty of moments that could lead to character development are raised only to be completely forgotten, or pop up so far out of left field that they feel ridiculous. This is little more than a disjointed assemblage of events occurring around a bag of cocaine that goes missing — eventually, about halfway through the film — the Albanian gangsters who are upset about this, and the child, Kim’s gradeschooler son (Aaron Gelkoff), who disappears in the wake of it all. Except Morris is so intent on keeping us in suspense as to what one thing has to do with another that, when we do sorta find out what is going on, it remains a mystery how any of it came to pass.
Morris is, thankfully, circumspect about the extreme criminal violence some of her characters are engaging in, and so Dagenham lands more on the social-drama end of the spectrum, rather than the crime-thriller one, and yet there’s nothing here to enlighten or engage us about why these people are the way they are — that is, universally awful — what they want out of life, or how anything might be different for them.