Greetings again from the darkness. The late 1970’s in London were filled with political, social and labor discontent. Director Derrick Borte (The Joneses, 2009) and writer Matt Brown (The Man Who Knew Infinity, 2015) use this backdrop, along with some cutting edge music of the era, to tell a coming-of-age story that is enjoyable despite its predictability.
Daniel Huttlestone (Into the Woods) plays 15 year old Shay (not Che) who carries the burden of babysitting for his sister Alice (Anya McKenna-Bruce) and cooking for his two-job dad Nick (Dougray Scott), as he dreams of meeting up with his free-spirited mom Sandrine (Natascha McElhone) who lives a bohemian lifestyle in London. Things start to change for Shay once he receives a package from his mom … his first taste of music from The Clash.
Soon enough, Shay finds himself chatting it up on a commuter train with wild girl Vivian (Nell Williams), who generously shares her own music from The Clash, as well as some insight into the band, and even a ticket to their next concert. After the best night of Shay’s life, a work accident puts his dad in the hospital, requiring the son to take on even more responsibility.
More than a coming of age story, this is what I call “the teenage awakening”. Once the world starts opening up to Shay, he begins to question everything. A serendipitous night in the clink with Joe Strummer (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) brings some surprisingly grounded philosophy and guidance. “Some people just burn bright” is a spot-on description of Shay’s mom and a lesson to Shay that parents are people too.
The movie belongs to Huttlestone, who bounces between responsible young man, bullied teen, and anti-establishment rebel. Ms. Williams is delightful in her role, and JRM brings the necessary hard edge to Strummer. Director Borte has a really nice eye for scenes, but probably was a bit too stingy with Clash tunes. The timing for the film is a bit unfortunate, as it’s released in the same year as the similar but superior Sing Street. Still it’s an enjoyable little film with enough philosophy sprinkled in that we don’t even mind the predictable ending with “I Fought the Law” carrying us to closing credits.