By Apryl (New York, USA)
Here you have it. Another film trying to capture the society’s underworld, and surprise, that society is in London. An underworld is supposed to be another dimension of everyday life, invisibly sharing our time and space but somehow it is still quite apparent to those aware of it, and this film, in all its glory, provides an account of the infamy. Whether to be unveiling and challenging, or purely entertaining, it fails to do both.
Briefly put, Kayla and Tanya are in London now, from Geordie. They are sisters trying to have a fresh start with their dad because their mother has passed. For all its heaviness, it is a topic lightly explored in the film; however, older sister Tanya’s constant attempts to be a proper guidance for Kayla serves its short purpose for the film. After standing up to a stranger (for a stranger) – at night outside a caff, and just her luck the stranger she confronts is the biggest criminal in the area – she dies in the desolate streets (for no reason-which is sadly realistic), but it had short impact due to a somewhat rushed transition and thus failed yet still horrific intensity.
Her catalytic death serves as a spoiler alert for Kayla’s downward spiral. Instead of her instant mutation from sweet-fresh-meat into a troubled, psychopathic, ringleading thug being the factor that should leave viewers with their heads askew (and faces holding a confused and disgusted sneer when she nearly kills a man in broad daylight with a bat), it is simply the immediacy of the mutation itself that should leave viewers confused and quite disgusted. It was just lazily put together.
Part of its ineffectual starkness can be justified with, “that’s reality,” but to many people: it simply is not (their reality). Of course that is why the film was made, certainly; people cannot grasp the idea and possible fact that the film’s content does happen and even in their communities. So this sort of undertaking should always be done tactfully and creatively. The director(s) and writer(s) should have allowed the plot to progress for effectiveness, instead of letting rap songs, a slummy mise en scene, and unprecedented graphic violence do all the work.
The film’s nature and material seems to blend films Kidulthood with Thirteen: a gritty take of urban youth, from typical delinquency amongst friends to big crime under druglords and kingpins, as explored mildly in Kidulthood, with a reverse-Cinderella twist of a good-girl-gone-bad element discovered almost legendarily in Thirteen.
Oh, by the way, the film has absolutely nothing to with its title, Sket, which is a term used in Britain for a loose female. That is why I was curious for the film anyway, as an American, or an outsider of UK culture and urban myself. Will this be some eye-opening, thought-provoking, life-changing adventure? Or some monotone, uncomfortable sight shamelessly meant to be thrilling? My idea of it was that a female was being bullied by a group of thugs, particularly females around her age, for being a “sket,” and a sweet white girl from a decent background was swallowed and left to rot in the big city underbelly; we would follow her journey to self-discovery, or she will lead us possibly down a bad end of the road. It would be powerful because it would be realistic and so people should relate. I thought the character and film would have a Katie Jarvis from Fish Tank lighting to them, but it sadly was nothing short of an exploitative potshot reel of “why to not live in London, why to not stand up to a black guy who has a Jeep at night, and why to not mess with a white girl with a ponytail, rings and a tracksuit.” Which is completely unfair and horribly conveyed. Yawn.
For all it’s worth, if the film were produced to be released internationally, it could be seen as informative of a still generally unknown culture, and profound. Unfortunately, it was not, and instead presented itself to its domestic audience as an attempt to wow probably inoculated eyes and minds. In short: cliché. It’s strong and heavy subject matter (senseless beatings and homicides-which do happen in reality but as a part of the plot, were senseless) made up for a weak and light production. Much potential, but aside from its failure to capture a very difficult subject, it was very boring; quite original though in its idea of warped feminism (a gang of young women going around bashing peoples’ heads in just…because?), but horribly acted and shot. There was no style. A documentary about honeybees might have more charisma. There is nothing controversial about it; rich of themes yet poorly grasped.
There was no character development, due to not even providing background for any of its other characters (which is a writing fail in itself). Let’s not say it can’t be done. It can be and has been done. But all we have to work with is Kayla. Who is Kayla? Is she some shivering, quivering excuse for an average girl new to the streets, or is she a typical angsty adolescent brat with a dormant volcano waiting to erupt (for whatever reason)? Is she a paradox because of failed writing and the weak vision that being a good girl becoming a hoodrat would put emphasis on the moral of the story (whatever that is); or does she have a complex because of her overwhelmingly shitty circumstances? But why such extreme circumstances all in one go? Mother dead, deadbeat dad, sister died (heroically?). Does it take all of this for a girl to crack? Surely just the one would do the trick, not that it’s an excuse to join a gang. Sure, she could be on the verge of a breakdown now because her sister has died-but she was running with a vicious pack of wolves trying drugs before that fact. So what are they trying to say? Just show street life in vain? Okay?
Two out of four stars. One star for the depth of the themes (shallowly told).
Another star for Ashley Walters; I’m just a generous person.