Farming: Film ReviewCast: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kate Beckinsale, Gug Mbatha-Raw, Damson Idris, John Dagleish
Director: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Bleak it may be, but equally sickening and compelling, former Lost and Oz actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje lays out a coming-of-age drama that grips as much as it occasionally frustrates.
Based on the true story of Nigerian Enitan (Idris) who was placed in the care of a British family by his parents, "farmed out" for the hope of finding a better start to life in a UK divided by Enoch Powell's Rivers of Blood speeches. But thrust into the home run by Kate Beckinsale's Ingrid (one note, and relatively stereotyped and underdeveloped), Eni begins to feel alienated and is broken by the lack of love and care afforded him.
Pushed to the edge, and into a pit of self-loathing, Eni falls into rejecting his culture, his heritage and his identity, and falls in with a group of skinheads, the Tilbury Skins, headed by Dagleish's Levi (easily one of the best villains of the year, dead-eyed, ominous and terrifying).
Rote in parts, with some awful Lahndon accents, as well as jumping back and forth to Eni's mother,
Farming's sociopathic edges take time to show through.
But when they do, and the skinheads arrive and our totally broken lead falls apart, Farming genuinely shocks in the same way American History X did..
Akinnuoye-Agbaje doesn't scrimp from the details of the horror, or allow you an easy escape in terms of viewing, filling the screen with 80s UK nihilism, a mirror to a society tearing itself apart with hate and violence.
It's here that Farming makes its viewing as compelling as it is sickening, as in other parts of the movie, the generic tropes and hollow descent into eventual redemption don't quite measure up to what's proffered at the end - a rushed reality check.
Characters such as Beckinsale's mother and Mbatha-Raw's teacher feel less than real, ripped from the pages of a book, giving Farming a feel of stereotyped TV movie fare. It's no This Is England, or the TV spinoff, but it does have moments of pure dread and evil seeping in.
Thankfully, the stunning pairing of Dagleish and Idris as the tormentor and the victim gives Farming a sharpness of focus that is worth hanging onto, a thread that spins a tightly sickening web around the viewer, and makes the emotional beats land as they truly should.
It is not to detract from the story Akinnuoye-Agbaje is looking to tell, but if parts had been beefed up this would have been a searing drama, a white knuckle ride to hell and back. But a lack of some character depth robs the insights and horror of some of the heft they should carry. It's not to say they don't, because when they land, the moments are utterly repugnant and disgusting, as they should be.
Ultimately Farming is unrelenting, its redemption feels too briefly mentioned, and the rawness of the central actors a little too numbing to fully embrace and only endure.