The saying “kids will be kids” might be true, but not all kids are the same. If they were and the characters in Menhaj Huda’s Kidulthood were a widespread reflection of today’s youth, we’re definitely in trouble. Rather the film aims to show a pocket of today’s youth with an over-styled and largely inconsequential take.
School’s out at an urban school in London after the suicide of a bullied girl. On a day set aside for reflection, a group of students take to the streets in a series of stories that converge at a party where fate appears to be ready to change the direction of everyone’s lives.
Hard drugs, sex, teenage pregnancy, weapons, parties, gang-style beatings – they’re all here in an attempt to shock, horrify or attempt to look cool. It all depends on the crowd. The fact is, while Kidulthood tries to be raw and gritty, it’s really just a mish-mash of events that’s missing characters that you genuinely care for or even begin to understand. Instead it’s mostly character types defined simply by what they do. The situations in the film are often extraordinary, but there’s little context or even thought given by the characters. One girl immediately drops to her knees when drugs are offered and she’s got no cash. Another snorts a line despite the fact she knows she’s pregnant. The boys aren’t immune either. One makes a replica gun in shop class over the opening credits, which one might think would make it important. Sure, it comes into play, but the pivotal nature that it could have carried was lost when is pulled out with the same urgency, or lack thereof, as every other knife, bat and fist that is swung.
The kids in Kidulthood are interesting and distinct in their ways but there’s very little attempt to get to know them. They’re simply shown as they are. It’s a direct approach that can work, but there’s simply too many issues being raised without any exploration of their impact. The suicide, which could have easily been a frame to look at various forms of bullying and its impact, instead is relegated to side conversations. It provides an excuse for a day off of school, but I don’t see how the events couldn’t have happened on your average Saturday. Aside from a couple of short mentions, the death is largely for not. It’s merely a prop to add to the perceived shock value.
Kidulthood is definitely not a comforting film to watch, but I can’t say it got under my skin like Larry Clark’s Kids or Bully, movies Huda seems to be modeling Kidulthood after. But Clark also showed the broader implications of his subjects’ actions. The statement was bigger than kids committing shocking acts.
The title refers to a right of passage or in-between phase where a child becomes an adult. I don’t see it happening here. Although there’s some events that will change those involved, it’s likely not going to change things much. Very little growing occurred that I saw. Huda’s failure to connect the events of the film with a greater statement or observation leaves Kidulthood without much to say. While it may give off an aura of cool with it’s frenetic editing, hot soundtrack and wannabe bad ass characters, it’s really just a mediocre film that creates little lasting impact.
Kidulthood DVD Review
The Kidulthood DVD shows the movie in a solid enhanced widescreen format (2.35:1 aspect ratio) with a Dolby 5.1 Surround audio track. There’s also a 2.0 Stereo audio track and subtitles in English and Spanish. Special features include a seven-part making-of featurette that runs about 30 minutes and nine deleted and extended scenes. The film’s trailer and several bonus previews are also included on the DVD.