Director Jim O’Hanlan takes us down many different London roads in 100 Streets, attempting to encompass the multiple criss-crossing tales of his debut feature’s diverse ensemble. Working from the first script by local screenwriter Leon Butler, the capital’s wide-ranging social spectrums and innumerable walks of life are all to be found here but this interweaving of stories from the rich fabric of a Battersea square mile doesn’t end up going anywhere. And what it’s trying to tell us is never particularly profound, coherent or meaningful.
It’s a real pity because the project – which got off the ground thanks in no small part to the involvement of Idris Elba – has modest, noble intentions but with a muddled execution and truly farcical ending there’s little of substance to take away from 100 Streets. Elba features as former England rugby star turned philandering philanthropist, Max Moore, whose numerous infidelities have led to the rapid decline of his marriage to Emily (Gemma Arterton) and a spiral of cocaine, drink and general uselessness.
The latter, rightfully embittered, and attempting to juggle the complications of a separation, their two children and a desire to reignite her long-lost acting career, is engaged in a not-so-secret dangerous liaison with artsy old flame, Jake (Tom Cullen, underserved by his marginal role). Other threads see Ken Stott as a romantic, thespian flaneur who walks around with his head in the clouds, listening to Nina Simone on his incongruously bright red ‘Beats’ headphones and doing tai-chi by the river. He is Emily’s former mentor and comes to fill this same role for eloquent and gifted lyricist, Kingsley (Franz Drameh), who he happens upon as the lad is ‘Paying Back the Community’ for a former misdemeanour.
Seeking to escape his estate and a life of pushing drugs, Kingsley’s aspirations and poetic vision make for the most engaging material at hand. Drameh, much like his character, is the diamond in the rough here and the young actor will be one to watch in the years to come. Where the disparate plot lines really unravel is with London cabbie George (Charlie Creed-Mills) and wife Kathy (Kierston Wareing). A loving couple, their story of adopting a child really never intersects with the other characters, who admittedly only pass like ships in the night themselves.
A tragic accident befalls George but instead of mining the potentially disastrous consequences of this situation for dramatic effect, O’Hanlan leaves it underdeveloped and forgotten for large periods of the film which is a real disappointment given its potential. It is with things looking up towards the end, though, and a suggestion of the essential goodness and resilience of Londoners in the offing, that 100 Streets nosedives in a ludicrous ball of flames. Subtlety, realism or understatement would’ve worked; as it is, an entirely overblown finale spoils the mild success of what’s gone before.
Matthew Anderson | @behind_theseens