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A Way Of Life
15A Way Of Life (2004)

updated 07 November 2004
reviewer's rating
4 out of 5
Reviewed by Adrian Hennigan
average user rating
4 Star


Director
Amma Asante
Writer
Amma Asante
Stars
Stephanie James
Nathan Jones
Gary Sheppeard
Dean Wong
Brenda Blethyn
Length
91 minutes
Distributor
Verve
Cinema
12 November 2004
Country
UK
Genre
Drama

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Average star rating: 4 from 975 votes

In directorial debut A Way Of Life, Amma Asante achieves two notable feats. As well as making your average Ken Loach film feel like a knockabout comedy, she delivers a raw and immensely moving drama about life on the wrong side of the South Wales tracks. This is a hugely accomplished British movie that deserves to be seen. The same goes for newcomer Stephanie James' performance as a teenage mum whose love for her baby is matched only by her hatred for others.

Leigh-Anne (James) is sharp as flint, feisty as hell, and will do anything for her baby daughter Rebecca - even if it's morally inexcusable. Living in a house that would pass for squalid if they gave it a lick of paint, she's never far from trouble. Grandmother Annette (Brenda Blethyn, struggling to make the Welsh accent stick) disapproves of Leigh-Anne's parenting skills and wants to look after Rebecca herself. There's also a running feud with Turkish neighbour Hassan (Oliver Haden), fuelled by Leigh-Anne's appalling racism and jealousy of his relationship with daughter Julie (Sara Gregory). Little wonder a spectator tells Leigh-Anne, "You're better than the telly, you are."

"A TENDER SOUNDTRACK BY DAVID GRAY"

Her partners-in-crime are brother Gavin (Nathan Jones) - not-so-secretly in love with Julie - and his two pals, Robbie (Gary Sheppeard) and Stephen (Dean Wong). Their lives finally gain direction - in the wrong way, of course - when Rebecca gets accidentally hurt, starting a train of events that will lead to the tragedy foretold in the film's opening sequence.

A Way Of Life is beautifully filmed (even if there are a few too many 'industrial landscape at sunset' shots) and has a tender soundtrack by David Gray which complements the on-screen brutality. Asante's greatest achievement, however, is to make us care for a character who, in lesser hands, could just have been a Daily Mail reader's worst nightmare. Go see this Life.

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