By Michael Fitzpatrick

‘Obey’, a stirring British film that crushes one’s spirits and raises one’s hopes.

How it’s New York: ‘Obey’ had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.
How it’s Irish: Its female lead, Sophie Kennedy Clarke, who plays Twiggy, first came to prominence in ‘Philomena’, an Irish-themed film, which co-starred Steve Coogan and Dame Judi Dench.

Youth, its not wasted on the young, for if our younger selves had our older minds, our experiences, our decisions to make, would they think, act and choose wisely? And if they did, would they ‘waste’ their youth, or merely misspend it, and live to dwell upon the amusing, and distressing, anecdotes for years to come? Watching ‘Obey’, the first feature film from the award-winning director Jamie Jones, one feels for the young characters, their bleak, hopeless existences, veering from the pathways that lead to healthy living and successful lifestyles, towards a barren and unsure future, in a troubling time for their world, which shows no signs of ever improving.

In this world are troubled characters such as Leon, Twiggy and Anton, portrayed by young British actors, Sam Gittins, Sophie Kennedy Clarke and the extraordinary Marcus Rutherford. All three, as well as their co-stars; Michael Quartey, T’nia Miller and James Atwell, stunningly create scenes of this poisoned slice of life, from their own tiny corners of a London in disarray during a riotous era, where unemployment and drugs are rife, and hope is difficult to find.

Rutherford, whose immense talents and brooding presence attempt to steal every scene he appears in, is well supported by an array of other characters, faces, one will often recognize from the actors’ previous projects. Miller, as his pitiful, pathetic, parental figure, and Atwell, the bullying wastrel boyfriend, push the boundaries, where the viewers will no doubt have feelings of pity, sorrow and hatred fighting for center stage in their minds, whenever these two are on screen.

Jones has cleverly blended real news reports, mostly footage created during the London riots of 2011, with his own fictional storylines, featuring Rutherford’s Leon, and his continued struggles in a world which holds little interest in him. We see Leon lost, wondering whether he should stay and fight back, or move on to a new life with the rebellious Twiggy, whose own demons continually threaten to derail her future.

‘Obey’, is a dark, often angry, occasionally disturbing but always thought-provoking film, which has done movie-lovers the enormous favor of introducing a fine ensemble of young English and Scottish actors to us, and while there is little for these multi-dimensional characters in the storylines to hope for, there is much for those watching to look forward to, knowing that this current generation continues to produce fine talents such as these. ‘Obey’ is a reminder that the British movie scene is a healthy and vibrant one, while its director, Jamie Jones, should he continue upon this trajectory, and there’s little doubt that he will, will be spoken of with similar reverence as Mike Leigh and Ken Loach.

 

 

 

 

‘Obey’ cast, with Marcus Rutherford, second from right.

About the Author

Michael Fitzpatrick