Beverley Review: New Black British Film Exploring Multi Cultural Identities
Having ‘reviewed’ the trailer for the coming-of-age short Beverley – starring Laya Lewis (Skins) and Vicky McClure (This is England) – a couple of weeks ago, I recently had the opportunity to see the Cass Pennant produced short film followed by a question and answer session (of sorts) with writer and director Alexander Thomas and producers Pennant and Beverley Thompson (yes, the real Beverley, if you were wondering).
After her father re-appears with a bag of curiously obtained cash and new hope and opportunity for her family, Beverley, her mother (played by Vicky McClure), her father (Winston Ellis) and younger brother and sister uproot to a white suburban neighborhood in Leicester where – as an interracial family – they are greeted quite literally with stares from their neighbors. Alienated in this new and unfamiliar environment, the young Beverley must fight to carve out an identity for herself.
Visually, the short is absolutely evocative of the eighties – think skinheads, the Specials and Chopper bikes – the film cleverly uses the two tone music and the rude boy sub-culture to underscore the challenges and the conflict that face Beverley as she attempts to ‘fit in’ with a group of local boys. In fact the tone is similar to This is England – in part down to the presence of This is England’s Vicky McClure but also down to the Rude Boy-cum-skinhead culture that dominate both dramas.
However, at only twenty five minutes, the story feels constrained by the medium. The multi-faceted challenges of not only trying to fit in as teenager and as the new kid, but also belonging to two different cultures and races, and also finding yourself challenged because of your sex and your race are all jam-packed in to the short, a feature or a television series would allow the story to breathe and burn and gain the depth that Beverley, at times, lacks. (However, the short will soon be making its way around the festival circuits and, you never know, could potentially lead to a feature length version.)
Nevertheless, the short deserves congratulations for – as Pennant observed – going against the status quo – instead of a young boy or a man, the lead is a young mixed race woman – and furthermore, for continuing the discussion on ‘multi-cultural’ identities in modern Britain.
– Hannah Campbell