"having said that this rough and ready British flick, will plague your thoughts for days after"
It’s hard when you watch a film, where virtually all actors involved are giving it their all and still, there something isn’t gelling quite right. This is sadly the case when it comes to Nick Moorcroft’s fierce script in Michael Caton-Jones' ruthless Urban Hymn. Although, having said that this rough and ready British flick, will plague your thoughts for days after.
Taking a glance at the 2011 looting London riots, we are introduced to troubled teens Jamie (Letitia Wright) and her always up for a fight, drug addicted mate Leanne (Isabella Laughland). Shoved in a communal living area and subjected to copious amounts of social care, can only help these two so far – and that simply isn’t very far at all. As Jamie fast approaches her 18th Birthday, all she wants is a place of her own and to be rid of the concerned social workers that seem to want to control her every move. Although, becoming an adult means that the crimes she commits, however petty will not be swept under the carpet anymore.
As fresh into social work Kate tries to set Jamie on the right track, at first with help of her conjoined twin Leanne, they tell her where to get off. As Leanne is put behind bars yet again, Jamie sees the error in her ways and finds solace in singing her heart out at a non-religious choir practice with Kate. Given opportunities such as auditioning for music school and being able to change her whole life around, don’t come up very often and when Leanne is unfortunately allowed back out into the real world, she tries everything to interfere with this new found passion of Jamie’s. Determined to not let this young talent go to waste, Kate and indeed the audience become lost in the music. The sweet sounds and smiles from Jamie make Kate's work seem worthwhile, will Jamie truly give up her so called best friend in order to advance and embrace this possible new life of hers?
Despite Shirley Henderson’s impeccable performance, Urban Hymn tries too hard to touch your heart that at times it becomes an eye rolling cliché. The sheer amount of singing could be a big no-no in many people’s books. The hardships and brutality of these young adults is without a doubt hard to watch and Letitia Wright brings the perfect combination of uptight, defensive teen and one willing to embrace her talent and make a new life for herself.
Laughland as Isabella will surely be expecting a call from Noel Clarke for his next venture given her ‘rude girl’, ‘in your face’ performance as well as Wright perhaps getting a record deal – if she hasn’t already. With an ending that every viewer could have possibly contemplated in their minds whilst watching, if this wasn’t trying so hard to be sentimental, Urban Hymn would have really hit the nail on the head.
On one hand a touching watch and on the other, just another one to add to the file of filmmakers trying to make a ‘meaningful’ film. But then perhaps that goes on personal preference of what truly makes a film meaningful.