British Board of Film Classification

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4.3.2.1

 

Film information

  • 4.3.2.1

  • Director: Noel Clarke & Mike Davis

  • Status: 15 uncut

  • Year: 2010

Genre: Drama

Noel Clarke and Mike Davis’s fast-paced British thriller 4.3.2.1 was submitted to the BBFC in March 2010 for an advice viewing. An advice viewing is a facility the BBFC offers distributors in which works (sometimes unfinished) can be viewed by a senior or experienced examiner who can give the company advice as to the likely category a work will receive. Sometimes companies alter films on the basis of this, to make it more likely that they will achieve a desired category. The film was near-complete but there were still some ‘green screen’ effects that needed adding to the final climatic scene. The advice submission came with a 15 request.

The narrative of 4.3.2.1 follows the exploits of four young women and their own separate adventures over the course of three days. During this time a chance encounter with some diamond thieves pulls them unwittingly into a world of (dis)organised crime and espionage, taking in internet stalkers, kidnapping siblings and a sleazy convenience store manager in a cameo from the film’s writer / director.  

The film had several issues that required a 15 classification.

Strong language required a 15, with over 70 uses of 'f**k' in the work. The BBFC’s 15 Guidelines allow for 'frequent use of strong language', but also state that 'the strongest terms (for example, 'cunt') may be acceptable if justified by the context'. 4.3.2.1 contains a single use of very strong language in a throwaway, undirected and non-aggressive context. Its acceptability is justified by it being comic in tone, and uttered by a woman under her breath after she has finished speaking to a ‘friend’ on the phone. The language alone would have secured the film a 15 certificate.  

Context was also relevant when looking at the strong sex references that are infrequently placed throughout. These include verbal references to oral sex and 'taking it in the ass' and brief sight of one of the main characters wearing a pair of knickers with ‘Eat Me’ written on the front. However, though slightly crude, the strength of the references did not go beyond the BBFC 15 Guidelines, which state 'There may be strong verbal references to sexual behaviour, but the strongest references are unlikely to be acceptable'. This is also true of the two sex scenes that are included in 4.3.2.1. Although containing a certain degree of eroticisation, the on-screen detail in both scenes is reasonably subtle and neither of the scenes contain any genital nudity that would usually push a work into the 18 category. There are both gay and straight sex scenes in the film, but whether a scene is heterosexual or homosexual sex is not a classification issue, as the BBFC treats gay and straight sex in films exactly the same. The BBFC 15 sex and nudity Guidelines state that 'Sexual activity may be portrayed without strong detail and nudity may be allowed in a sexual context but without strong detail'.

4.3.2.1 also contains infrequent scenes of strong violence and frequent scenes of moderate violence; the BBFC 15 Guidelines state that ‘Violence may be strong but should not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury. The strongest gory images are unlikely to be acceptable. Strong sadistic or sexualised violence is also unlikely to be acceptable'.

The most notable moments of violence are Kerry attacking the purse-snatcher, the scene where Kelly fights off Shannon's attackers, Cassandra fighting with her internet stalker, and the climax in the grocery store. Many of these border on the 'moderate', especially given their lack of detail, the comic tone of much of the violence (it occasionally lapses into comic-book style fight scenes, with the female protagonists displaying their physical prowess in the name of self-defence) and the fact that a lot of the process detail is masked. The strongest moments occur when the heroines become involved in inflicting violence (sometimes slightly excessively) in order to protect themselves or one another. All of the action is well contained within the 15 Guidelines in terms of BBFC Guidelines and precedent, as it is a similar strength to violence often passed at the 15 certificate.

The use of illegal drugs is another classification issue that led to a 15 recommendation - there is some sight of marijuana being smoked which occurs within a completely uncritical and non judgmental context. The BBFC 15 Guidelines allows drug taking to be shown, ‘ ... but the film as a whole must not promote or encourage drug misuse'. In 4.3.2.1 it is either presented as a 'lifestyle' choice (in one scene party goers are seen smoking) or as something comic (the character Kerry is seen sharing a joint with her driving instructor after failing her driving test). It was felt that although the drug use is incidental and not criticised, the film as a whole does not offer any specific promotion of drug use - it is represented as being a fact of life.

The film includes references to self-harming, including sight of scar on a character's arms when she confronts her mother. The same character, who is portrayed as depressed, is also seen taking tablets with alcohol and standing on a bridge. Suicide and self-harming aren't glamorised and the film contains no novel information.

Finally there was a minor issue of discrimination, as the film featured sexist, homophobic and racist attitudes and remarks. In one particular scene a particularly objectionable character is seen making racist remarks to a black woman – “Take your black ass inside, eat some chicken or watermelon". However, the remarks are uttered by a clearly obnoxious character, who immediately gets his comeuppance for airing his offensive attitudes. It is quite clear that the work as a whole does not 'endorse discriminatory language or behaviour' – as required by the Guidelines at 15. 

After the advice screening the distributor was informed that a 15 recommendation would be likely if the film did not receive further changes. A completed version of 4.3.2.1 was submitted for formal classification in May 2010 and was awarded a 15 certificate, with the accompanying BBFCinsight – ‘Contains strong language, once very strong, strong sex, violence and drug use’.

4.3.2.1 was selected for National Schools Film Week in 2010.