GFF 2021: A Brixton Tale

There's too much going on in this look at race and love in modern Britain, with A Brixton Tale’s enigmatic first half giving way to a more obvious socioeconomic crime narrative

Film Review by Anahit Behrooz | 08 Mar 2021
  • A Brixton Tale
Film title: A Brixton Tale
Director: Darragh Carey, Bertrand Desrochers
Starring: Lily Newmark, Ola Orebiyi, Jaime Winstone

A Brixton Tale isn’t quite sure what kind of film it wants to be. As it begins, young Leah (Lily Newmark) is trying to make it big as a video artist at the gallery she interns for, documenting her life with fly-on-the-wall footage intended to create a snapshot of life in her local Brixton stomping grounds. When she captures the charming, shy Benji (Ola Orebiyi) on camera, the two begin a relationship that is inextricable from her personal ambition, laying the groundwork for an irreconcilable tension in their romance.

There is a compelling, enigmatic edge to A Brixton Tale’s first half. As the wealthy, white Leah thoughtlessly plays tourist in Benji’s Brixton, an uneasy, almost Jordan Peele-esque tone settles over the proceedings. She begins voyeuristically documenting Benji’s world, pulling her camera out at intimate family events, furtive drug deals, and housing estate conflicts, to exploit and package for a middle-class arts crowd.

Yet there is too much going on in A Brixton Tale and it soon abandons this interesting thread for a more obvious socioeconomic crime narrative that intersects with a few too many subplots: the horrors of addiction, a doomed romance, an indictment of Britain’s racist justice system. Taken individually, each storyline is rich in potential and carried off admirably by a strong cast, but collectively they undermine the conviction of A Brixton’s Tale’s unique premise, turning a radical reflection of London’s doubled nature into a common-place parable on race and class.

A Brixton Tale has its European premiere at Glasgow Film Festival, screening 6-9 Mar – tickets here