Noel Clarke’s 2008 sequel to Menhaj Huda’s Kidulthood (classified 15) takes up the story of Sam on his release from prison after serving a six year sentence. Sam is faced with trying to put right some of the damage he has done by his killing of Trife, and with dealing with the people seeking revenge for Trife’s death.
Set as before on the streets of west London, the film is not quite as bleak as its predecessor, as Sam does his best to convince friends and enemies that violence breeds violence and solves no problems. The characters that we have seen as teenagers are now adults, and in some cases, have some perspective on their lives and past actions.
The film was submitted for classification in May 2008 for release the following month.
As before, the action reflects the brutal reality of life in an urban setting where drugs, guns and knives leave none of the young characters untouched, but Sam’s change of attitude offers some hope for the future. It is no surprise, then, that the issues for classification include violence and drugs, as well as use of strong language and strong sex references.
In terms of violence, while several of the film’s characters go 'tooled up', the film takes a clear moral stance, condemning the casual use of weapons by the fates suffered by those who resort to their use. There is little in the way of injury detail, attacks giving the impression of violence and pain without showing the immediate results. In fact the strongest moment of violence comes in a flash-back to Kidulthood, as a man describes how he had his face cut with a Stanley knife. It is a brief but bloody moment and not characteristic of the violence generally present in this film.
BBFC Guidelines at 15 allow for strong violence provided that it does not 'dwell on the infliction of pain or injury'. Otherwise, the various attacks and beatings are not detailed and the weapons used are seen as dangerous rather than attractive. For instance, a drug dealer punishes a man by burning him with a heated hair iron – the man’s pain is evident but we see no detail of the assault.
Regarding drugs the lifestyles of some of the film’s characters involve drug dealing or drugs use. The psychotic Jay does deals on the street, characters share a joint, and Lexi snorts cocaine. The world of the film presents these activities without promoting them or making them glamorous, which accords with BBFC drugs Guidelines at 15 which state that drugs misuse must not be condoned or encouraged.
The street slang spoken by many of the characters places the film at 15, where strong language is permitted. There is continual use of the f-word in dialogue and also in the lyrics of rap music. More problematic, and potentially a barrier to the 15, is the use of the c-word, which research suggests is likely to offend both men and women. Any use of this word in a film that is otherwise likely to be classified at 15 needs careful consideration of the context in which it appears. Near the start of the film, a cab driver sitting in his car glances at a group of noisy young people outside a club and mutters to himself , “Fucking c**ts”. The remark is not addressed to anyone, it is merely his comment on what he sees. It was felt that this was not sufficient reason to push the film to an 18. The other use is in conversation between Sam and Lexi, who remembers him from school –she remarks casually, ‘You don’t remember me, do you? …no reason why you should. I was two years younger than you, and you were a c**t’. Again, there is no aggressive intent here, and Sam does not react – it is a slang use of the word to indicate why she avoided him at school. Given this context, and the strong reasons for making the film accessible to those of 15 years and over, it was felt that the very strong language was acceptable at 15.
The sex and sex references were containable at '15'. The sex scenes in the film comprise images of thrusting and some writhing about, but nothing in the way of detail, with nudity being restricted to a minimum –less strong in fact than the sex scenes in Kidulthood. BBFC Guidelines for sex allow ‘strong verbal references to sexual behaviour’ . These appear as Jay reassures his girlfriend that he cares for her – ‘Didn’t I shave my name into your pussy hair last night?’ and in an argument between some girls over a man, “If your t’ings isn’t good and tight enough to keep his dick….’.
Adulthood also contains some references to sexual violence. Sex references similar to those above occur sporadically, but the more sobering references are contained in an verbal account of sexual violence, in Lexi’s description of a sexual assault she suffered – “Seven men, three hours – they took turns, they fucking put things in me... they raped me – and they got away with it.” References like these which make plain the abhorrent nature of rape are permitted under the 15 Guidelines.
The film was rated 15 with BBFCinsight that warns of ‘very strong language, strong violence, sex references and drug use'. It was selected for National Schools Film Week in 2008.