Noel Clarke brings the trilogy to an end with the long awaited Brotherhood- a witty, more mature conclusion to a beloved and groundbreaking series of films about kids growing up in a way that British audiences hadn’t seen them grow up before.
Brotherhood follows Sam (Noel Clarke), years on from the drama of his youth, juggling fatherhood with work as he struggles to keep his family afloat. His determination to stay away from the troubles of his past is tested when his brother is stabbed by an unknown assailant. Despite his initial reservations, Sam’s patience is tested as the perpetrator continues to taunt him, desperate for him to crack.
The most notable change from Clarke’s first two films is a shift in tone- the unforgiving bleakness of Kidulthood and Adulthood is replaced with tongue-in-cheek humour and moments of pure hilarity. Scenes of high drama are accompanied by a Bond-villain-style soundtrack that is at odds with the sincerity of the discourse between the characters, but it’s the cast who really bring the laughs. The most notable performance is brought by Arnold Oceng, who acts as the clumsy, reluctant Robin to Clarke’s earnest, somewhat serious Batman, as the two work to avenge the stabbing of Sam’s brother. His performance is over the top to the point of slapstick, and it totally works in the context of the film. Other notable performances include the exceptional Fady Elsayed and a brilliant debut from Stormzy (some rappers can act!) and they carry the film through to it’s bitter, jaw-dropping conclusion.
Despite the obvious shift to a more light-hearted piece, the film doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to more serious matters. Jason Maza is chilling as Essex hard man Daley, and of course, Clarke himself brings a subtler, more complex performance that’s miles apart from the arrogant, sniping Sam who was so hard to penetrate in the earlier films.
For reasons that many people are aware of, the gaping hole in the film was the omission of beloved characters Moony (Femi Oyeniran) and Jay (Adam Deacon.) Whilst Adulthood had already stepped away from the original cast to a degree, it was the relationship between them that made Kidulthood stand out from the rest. Their friendship and they way they related to each other was so familiar, in its silliness as much as in the moments of tenderness, and despite the stellar cast that Clarke pulled together for the conclusion, there wasn’t quite enough to satisfy their absence.
As the conclusion of a trilogy, it’s lacking the final goodbye that fans are really going to crave, but on its own merit, the film is an exciting, thrilling piece, far superior to most films of the genre that come before it. Will it really be the end? Probably, but there’s no doubt that the hype that will undoubtedly be generated by the film will hopefully pave the way for a new generation of filmmakers keen to emulate their popularity, just as Kidulthood did when it came on the scene 10 years ago. At a time when the pressure is on the industry to support a more diverse cinema, one can only hope that Brotherhood will get the support from the audiences that it truly deserves.