Actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje turns his hand to writing and directing for his feature debut Farming, a coming-of-age drama based on his own turbulent upbringing. Born to Yorùbá parents in Nigeria in the late 1960s, Enitan (Damson Idris) was fostered, or ‘farmed’ as it was referred to, by working-class mother Ingrid (Kate Beckinsale) and her husband Jack (Lee Ross) in Tilbury, England. After a difficult childhood, Eni lashes out in his teenage years and becomes embroiled in brutal gang culture.
With challenging subject matter throughout, this is a deeply personal and therefore authentic narrative. The audience is dragged through a gamut of emotions towards the powerful protagonist, first feeling sympathy for him as a frightened child who can’t find his place in the world, and then fear and disgust towards him as his life goes off the rails as a downright nasty, violent skinhead. He’s not always easy to like or to root for, but he’s a captivating presence throughout and Damson Idris delivers a stunning performance. I should also mention John Dagleish who is scarily good in his role as Levi, the vicious leader of the Tilbury Skins mob.
Brilliantly handling its complex issues of race and psychological trauma, Farming makes for uncomfortable yet essential viewing, marking a striking directorial debut from Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje.