Ill Manors is a film by Ben Drew, also known as Plan B, who is primarily a rapper. It shows the grim life of drug dealers and prostitutes that all live in or around a council estate in London. Each character has their own story but they all come together at various points throughout the film.
Ill Manors is AMAZING. Seriously. You have to go and watch this now. I was gripped from start to finish. It was harrowing and stark and depressing, because you know these kinds of things do happen yet it’s engrossing and you still have the hope that the characters will be able to break out of the vicious circle.
I first want to talk about the structure and style of the film. It’s an incredible debut by Plan B who showed that he has an eye for a good shot. The film is well-paced and dynamic, and it juggled the large cast superbly. I never felt lost or confused and there are a lot of different plots going on. There are a few subtle things to take note of as well, and I thought the director showed a good attention to detail. He also appeared in the film himself (aside from a small cameo at the end) as a narrator, but the narration was done in rap, which I thought was an interesting choice and helped to give the film a unique identity because I haven’t experienced that in a movie before. These narrations introduce the new major characters and their history as the focus shifts to their story and it’s married to flashback montages. It was an interesting and ingenious way to do things, and the beat of the rap meant that the flashbacks didn’t slow the film down at all.
As for the story itself, well, the characters were all well-drawn and complex. They came across as very human and they weren’t totally condemned, but they also weren’t portrayed as total victims either. I think all of them were shown to have had either abusive parents or no parents at all, and perhaps that’s a reason for their behaviour, but the film also shows that these people made certain decisions, and those decisions have consequences. So while it shows that there are reasons for their behaviour it doesn’t totally excuse it either, and I thought this was a mature and thoughtful way to handle things.
Speaking of mature, there are a lot of dark moments in this film that some viewers may find incredibly hard to watch. It’s very brutal and it honestly made me feel horrible because I wanted to help these people but they’re living in this seemingly hopeless world where everything flies around in this vicious circle of survival. There were some scenes that, if you had come into the film at that moment, would have given you the idea that it was a film about survival in a post-apocalyptic world.
The film isn’t entirely devoid of hope though, as one character, Aaron, seeks to find a way out. There are also funny moments as well so it’s not a relentless two hours of doom.
The one negative I will say is that I think it creates this atmosphere by only showing this side of the estate. I think that there are well-adjusted people who also populate these areas and have stable family lives, but the film doesn’t explore this. I understand why, because these moments don’t fit with the tone of the film and it’s not setting out to make a documentary, but I think it’s important to remember that although some people do go through these things, not everyone does, and they don’t go through these things just because they live on a council estate, there are other factors as well.
Ill Manors is a film filled with complex characters and dramatic moments. There’s plenty of tension and suspense, and it’s completely engrossing. It’s also stylishly directed and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed this film.