Actor, writer and director Noel Clarke carved the path to his own success when he penned the screenplay for Kidulthood back in 2006. This helped boost his career and the film series continued to Adulthood two years later, and now Brotherhood, the final chapter of the franchise. Settled down but financially struggling, Sam Peel (Clarke) wants nothing more than to provide for girlfriend Kayla (Shanika Warren-Markland) and his two kids, and to forget about the troublesome past that led him to serve a six year prison sentence. When his brother Royston (Daniel Anthony) is shot at a nightclub, it quickly transpires that Sam’s past has returned to haunt him again. Forced to confront old and new faces including Essex gangster Daley (Jason Maza), can he finally put the past behind him for good?
The urban style of the predecessors carries through into the latest instalment, and Clarke’s tainted vision of North-west London is again decorated with a suitably grime-laden soundtrack. The youthful menace and vitriol however feels toned down to be replaced by a reflective and compelling character study of criminal turned family man. Sam Peel has changed, and no longer converses in the lingo of the street gangs. Similarly Noel Clarke has grown and matured both as an actor and a filmmaker, rounding off the protagonist’s story with a confident and assured directorial flair. The narrative treads over familiar, redemptive turf but now it feels more appropriate given the length of time that has passed.
Having him tentatively posing in front of a mirror in the gym and making references to an ever so slightly receding hairline, Clarke doesn’t shy away from the fact that Sam has outgrown his thuggish roots physically and mentally. He gives an honest, transformative performance that digs deep into Sam’s soul, and we see how some actions have everlasting consequences. Unfortunately, the story’s supporting characters at times feel a little underdeveloped, particular the villains who don’t possess the same sense of threat that Sam carried with him as the ‘bad guy’ in his younger days. Rapper Stormzy puts in an interesting turn as reluctant footsoldier Yardz and Arnold Oceng impresses as Henry, a friend of Sam’s brother used as a vehicle for a comedic subplot. The observant use of humour allows Clarke to have a bit of fun and balances nicely with the darker subject matter.
Brotherhood is a powerful, fitting finale to the ‘hood’ crime trilogy, and cements Noel Clarke’s solid stature in the sub-genre he has become masterful in. While the script sometimes lacks vim and edges towards sentimentality as events draw to a close, it is his superb acting and direction that stand out on this occasion. With the vital knowledge and a clear understanding of the culture of the world Sam and the other characters inhabit, Clarke can provide an effective social commentary on the urban society whilst delivering a passionate, apt conclusion to his story.