Regardless of your station in life, you’re going to be sad—an improved financial situation only changes your problems. At least that’s what veteran television director Jim O’Hanlon’s feature film debut, 100 Streets, has to say about the people who reside in an economically and racially diverse square mile of London. Via three occasionally intersecting narratives, O’Hanlon weaves a tale of misery, self-induced or otherwise.

There is the rickety marriage of recently retired rugby star Max (Idris Elba) and one-time actress Emily (Gemma Arterton), caused by years of infidelity and drug use spurred by the question of, “What do I do with my life now that my playing days are behind me?” There’s the middle-aged, middle-class couple, cab driver George (Charlie Creed-Miles) and his marathon-running wife, Kathy (Kierston Wareing), who are in the final stages of adopting after decades of infertility. And then there’s Kingsley (Franz Drameh), a lower-class kid with actorly aspirations, recently out of jail and looking to avoid the financial draw of dealing drugs. In contact with some of them is gregarious local actor and neighborhood stroller Terence, played by The Hobbit veteran Ken Stott.

Each character experiences a traumatic event (or the fallout from one) within the film’s 93-minute runtime, and O’Hanlon struggles to give any of them their full due—especially narrator and ostensible protagonist Kingsley, whose tone-deaf story is often dotted with racial know-nothingness. Drameh is called on to play Kingsley as someone who changes dramatically in every interaction. He’s the soulful older brother always promising to make things right for his preteen sister, but he’s also a faux tough-as-nails hood who’s quick to headbutt an underling. He serves his probation in a cemetery, where he befriends Terence, and he’s like the most precocious kid in the classroom, doing small favors of kindness and soaking up stories. But then he also beats someone with a baseball bat. The intention of this character is clear: He’s been battered by an unfair system and he’s looking for a way out. As portrayed, though, Kingsley’s ever-changing vocal inflections and posture make him seem like different people, none of whom spends enough time with the audience to give a sense as to who he really is.

The other characters float along as surface-level creatures because of the storytelling shortcuts taken by O’Hanlon and his screenwriter, Leon Butler, whose 2012 short film One Square Mile: London provided much of 100 Streets’ inspiration. Key scenes alter these people’s lives in extraordinary ways, and they make enormous choices with wide-ranging consequences for themselves and their families, but O’Hanlon and Butler gloss over both the motivation for these decisions and their emotional aftermath—the important stuff, in other words. Moments of marital tension pass before they have whipped a viewer into an “I can’t take this any longer” frenzy and a truncated buildup to one character’s would-be triumphant moment makes that moment slight and trite.

O’Hanlon’s picture appears to take inspiration from the “everything is connected” work of Robert Altman, especially Nashville, but 100 Streets manages to be both too narrow and not narrow enough. Any of these stories could be fleshed out into its own film. There is no guarantee they would be good movies, but they would be more complete and less slapdash. Alternatively, if O’Hanlon and Butler had incorporated scores more characters and only provided snapshots of their troubles, like in Altman’s superior films, this subsection of London would be a more vibrant ecosystem of melancholia rather than a set of incomplete-feeling misery tales.

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