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  Yardie No, She Went Of Her Own Accord
Year: 2018
Director: Idris Elba
Stars: Aml Ameen, Shantol Jackson, Stephen Graham, Sheldon Shepherd, Fraser James, Riaze Foster, Naomi Ackie, Calvin Demba, Jumayn Hunter, Johann Myers, Antwayne Eccleston, Everaldo Cleary, Mark Rhino Smith, Akin Gazi, Tanika Bailey, Adnan Mustafa
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jamaica in the nineteen-seventies, and it's known for its music, its sunshine - and its gangs which hold sway across the land, erupting into turf wars that will often see innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire. As a young boy, D (Aml Ameen), was well aware of these divisions and the resulting fallout, he had seen schoolfriends die, but never expected it to hit quite as close to home as when his brother tried to make peace and throw oil on troubled waters with his sound system. If there was one unifying force in Jamaica, it was the love of music, and for a while it seemed as though he was having his desired effect - but then, right in front of D's eyes, his brother was shot dead.

Our hero (antihero?) then spends the rest of the film planning his vengeance in this, actor Idris Elba's feature debut as director. He had dabbled in direction on television, but this was his first, most visible work in that regard, an adaptation of the book Yardie by Victor Headley that had meant a lot to him as a young man, as it had to many in the black British community. Though Elba was of North African rather than Jamaican extraction, he recognised much of what Headley was referring to, and though it was his dream to make a living as a performer, he must have squirreled away the thought that should he be successful enough, he would get the chance to bring material like this to the screen.

And so he did, though despite his high profile and general likeability, the film faltered at the box office, demonstrating goodwill was not enough to get a star's pet project the success they would have preferred. This was not a lesson exclusive to Elba, it happened time and again, and lukewarm reviews did little to raise its profile sufficiently, yet while it was no classic, there was much to admire in Yardie, most of it the director's ability to evoke a time gone by. Or at least you would hope it had gone by, but as it was released in a year when the black community in London was suffering from violence inflicted on itself like never before, at least not recently, that moved against this being a hit as well.

It could have been escapism wasn't the order of the day when, no matter this was largely set in the eighties, it hewed too close to home for its potential audience and was not something they fancied as a night out at the pictures. Had they taken a chance, they would be greeted with a piece that had a glancing interest in solving the problems of bloodshed and aggression for the sake of saving face or making their presence felt, but was more engaged with conjuring the atmosphere of Elba's childhood. No, he had no Jamaican roots, but he knew those who did, and apparently he regarded the African-British and West Indian-British communities as more or less the same, which some may have balked at. Nevertheless, his sincerity at how much the source novel had meant to him was clear in every frame.

And it was a very attractive-looking film, not just those verdant Jamaican locations the story began in, but the ostensibly unappealing inner cities where the bulk of the running time took place. Maybe this was more down to cinematographer John Conroy's talent with making a relatively low budget movie look like it was far more expensive than it was, but even the cast seemed steeped in the milieu and with their accents and patois (many of them were genuine Jamaicans, though Ameen was a Londoner), and the results felt nothing if not authentic. It was the sort of film you watched to wallow in the mood and the visuals, as well as a well-chosen soundtrack of reggae of the day it depicted, for sadly the plot was all too familiar which served everything else poorly, a pity when it was the work's Achilles' Heel. There was nothing you had not seen in many a gangster drama over the decades as far as what the characters got up to went, but for all the lack of inspiration from that angle, Elba was someone you wanted to support, though he remained at his best on television. Music by Dickon Hinchliffe.

[Deleted scenes and a bunch of featurettes and interviews are on Studio Canal's Blu-ray. Nice print.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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