A middle-aged barber dreams of escaping his rough area and becoming a Dancehall star, but an encounter with a local drug runner brings up uncomfortable truths about his past and makes him reconsider his importance in the community.
Koby Adom’s rise from short film director to co-director of BBC drama Noughts + Crosses could be described as meteoric. However, the eye for detail, visual world-building and excellent character direction on display in his fourth credited short film Haircut, is stone cold proof that he is no flash in the pan. Koby Adom has the goods and boy does he prove it.
From the opening moments of the film, we are embedded not just in the barbershop that serves as the setting for the vast majority of the film, but in the community itself. The film removes the ability to think about the concept of community in the abstract. We are introduced to the shops, the market stalls, the traffic. Before getting into the nuts and bolts of the story, Adom ensures that we are given a visual stamp of the neighbourhood we are to think of as home.
He goes even further as the characters are introduced, deftly making them feel familiar and relatable without relying on tropes or stereotypes. From the politically spirited Nigerian uncle to the young people giving their elders a hard time (albeit lovingly), the film takes the time to present well-drawn characters and encourages us to invest in them. Chief among them is our protagonist Jimmy (a very much on-form Robbie Gee), owner of the barbershop aspiring music producer. Despite the familial bonds clearly visible between him and his customers, Jimmy makes no secret of his desire to break free of his neighbourhood and pursue something that allows him to be a more successful man than he has been.
The chemistry between the central characters is given room to really breathe, ensuring the viewer is at ease in the world that they have been introduced to, as well as infusing the film with a healthy dose of humour, before the status quo is fractured then shattered entirely. This happens in the form of local youth Tyson (Malcolm Kamulete) barrelling into the shop, stashing a bag and then leaving, promptly followed by the police looking for a young black man fitting his description.
Introducing authentic characters and establishing a close-knit community all pays off once elements of danger are introduced. Adom’s commitment to getting the audience to buy into Jimmy’s life and community force you to worry for characters who find themselves in harm’s way. Additionally, the story introduces more than one source of threat, ratcheting the tension and the drama and forcing true character to be revealed.
It goes without saying that investing in characters requires great acting and, in that regard, Haircut is no slouch. The core of the story is anchored by Jimmy and Tyson, and while the rest of the cast is filled out by smaller roles, each one has significant impact on the story. We are also given snippets into their lives from Josiah the assistant (Jason York) to half Nigerian-half Jamaican child Levi and his mother Funmi (Weruche Opia). In each case, total commitment is given over to their portrayals, ensuring that even with limited screen time they give the audience a variety of rich characters to invest in.
This is a well-conceived and equally well executed story about how our actions affect our community. Adom and editor Jim Page use the 15-minute runtime economically, moving the story along at a steady pace without skipping over character beats, providing the room for the more dramatic moments to really land. Haircut succeeds in telling an intense and immersive morality tale, driven by character and enhanced by a distinct style. A highly recommended watch.
Studio: Film London | Year: 2018 | Genre: Drama | Duration: 14 Mins | Suitability: Mature
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