Updated: Jul 3
This period racial drama follows the identity struggles of a mixed-race teenager who moves to white suburbia. Her fight to fit in with the local gang leads to devastating consequences.
If there is one central question that sums up the themes and plot of this visceral, uncomfortable and unflinchingly brave short film it would be this… “Who are you?”
Alexander Thomas’ period racial drama makes no secret of the fact that identity is the driving theme of this film, but while the story centres on a young mixed race woman in 80s England and her struggles to find a place between her two seemingly implacable worlds, the question of identity is levelled at Britain as a whole. Focusing on the era of the two-tone movement (a subject and history unto itself) this is one of the few short films to highlight the complexity of skinhead culture.
As Beverley, the film’s titular protagonist, slowly becomes accepted into an initially hostile gang of white skinheads, the film is given the opportunity to explore the complex social dynamics all-too-often absent in films (short or feature) about race. The film dives headlong into complicated relationships where the gang accepts Beverley but continues to target other black people. Similarly, Beverley endures moments of open racism and stoically stands her ground, while seemingly calculating whether or not to speak up or join in. Additionally, the film includes conflict within the gang itself showing the spectrum of what they believe their core beliefs are supposed to be.
Thomas does not allow the film to be clear cut or morally simplistic. The characters are as complicated as the themes, to say nothing of the socioeconomic landscape in which the story takes place.
A story this dense relies heavily upon the calibre of its cast and fortunately, Beverley’s cast is an embarrassment of riches. From Laya Lewis’ shudderingly fierce and disarmingly vulnerable portrayal as Beverley to Kieran Hardcastle’s seamless marrying of alpha male bravado and internal conflict as skinhead leader Wills.
There is also no slouching on the supporting cast as each one leaves their stamp on the story and on Beverley’s journey. Chief among this fantastic group is the BAFTA winning Vicky McClure as Beverley’s mother, constantly on edge as she struggles to maintain control of a mixed-race family that she is all too aware is a potential spark in the powder keg of 80s England.
Ingrained into the very fabric of the film and central to its tone is its music, a collection of reggae, ska and two-tone expertly (and at times covertly) weaving together the worlds that Beverley struggles to find her place in. The impressive soundtrack, whether diegetic or non-diegetic is not there simply for window dressing. At any given time, its inclusion is either central to the plot or a key part of the character journey. It is storytelling detail like this that helps to make the film immersive and gives it its own voice. It does not rely on soaring crescendos although Rael Jones’ score provides a nicely subtle underscoring of the songs and style that comprise the cornerstone of the culture at the heart of the film.
As with many crafts within film, a mark of high standard is reflected in its invisibility. Very little of your attention falls on the period costumes, cars and televisions. Scenic details do not stand out specifically because they are meticulously constructed. As a result, we do not spend any time marvelling at the film’s ability to send us back in time, instead we live Beverley’s reality as if it is here and now.
This film would be poignant and relevant at any given time, but at the time of writing, Beverley takes on a particular resonance. In a moment when Britain is looking at its all-to-often unflattering history, Beverley reminds us of a point when grassroots culture gave us a roadmap to bridge cultural gaps, the courage to affirm who we really are and to glimpse, even amid deafening tribalism, what it could mean to be a truly multicultural Britain. Not half and half, but one and one.
Watch the full movie below:
Check out our podcast review and interview with writer/director Alexander Thomas below.
Studio: Urban Edge Films | Year: 2015 | Genre: Drama | Duration: 24 Mins | Suitability: Mature - Language and scenes of violence and racism