TIFF 2012 Spotlight: iLL MANORS

TIFF 2012 Spotlight: iLL MANORS

Worth It
Sep 13, 2012
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The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is well underway and this year’s line up of movies is as diverse as it is massive. Instead of catching the big title movies with all the buzz (Looper, health End of Watch, ailment Dredd 3D, dysentery etc…), I opted for the more obscure, littler-known films. Ok, truth be told, I was really behind in booking my tickets, so the pickings were slim. But so far I’ve not been disappointed. The first film I caught was a micro-budget flick from the UK called, iLL MANORS.

Relatively unknown on this side of the pond, artist “Plan B” is a major pop sensation in the UK. His birth moniker, Ben Drew, is used to credit him as writer and director for this, his first feature film. iLL MANORS is essentially a day in the life of the darker side of the inner city of London. With six story lines interwoven throughout the film, the audience needs to pay close attention to who is who and what is what. From crack-whores to pimps to innocent kids being groomed in the way of the thug life, iLL MANORS is a stark, powerful and energetic portrayal of life in the seedy underside of the city.

I must admit that I love this film. It is honest, stylish and engrossing. All the stories are compelling and thought-provoking. The acting is surprisingly fresh and true. The heart of the film is clear and sobering: those living in the slums are miserable and deserve better. I especially appreciated that Ben Drew ended the film on a sweet and sour note, with a montage of the remaining characters continuing in their plight while the central character (Aaron played by Riz Ahmed) drives off to reconciliation and hope. This is honest and inspiring cinema.

My only complaint about Drew’s first feature is that it had an inconsistent flow. The first third of the movie is slow and spends a lot of time focusing on 2-3 characters in an almost meditative way. But all of a sudden we are introduced to a whole new string of characters and the story lines start converging violently and at break-neck speed. By the end of the film I wished that the earlier part of the film was as exciting and breathtaking as the latter part. In his defence, Drew explained during Q&A, after the screening, that his original vision was simply the six story lines told in a linear fashion. Upon further study and critique he handed the footage over to another editor to help make the stories flow into one another more effectively. Well, that editor certainly did an amazing job. But the lack of clarity with the original vision is evident as the film flows unevenly. That said, with a little more editing and cutting 15-20 minutes of unnecessary footage, iLL MANORS would have been the next Trainspotting.

Regardless, with incredible performances by the entire cast, honest stories of troubled lives and a stylish approach to editing it all together, iLL MANORS is a triumph for Plan B. This alternative look at London life is an entertaining, thought-provoking, heart-wrenching tale that stays with you long after the credits roll.

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Craig the Critic

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