SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! A Brixton Tale catalogs the descent of young lovers into a world of drugs and violence. Beginning as Leah (Lily Newmark) seeks to document the life of the shy Benji (Ola Orebiyi), things turn Sid & Nancy quickly as Leah pushes for more edgy content. After having run-ins with the law and being roughed up by gang members, Benji begins to lose sight of himself through the lens of Leah’s camera. In a Gen-Z mentality, the film questions: what is the real price of content?
Leah and Benji’s relationship begins with some low-key stalking on the part of Leah. After getting to know Benji and his friend, Archie (Craig Middleburg), Leah starts work on her latest production: chronicling Benji’s life as a young, black man in Brixton. The movie escalates as the urge to create more dangerous footage entices Leah to push Benji into the spotlight of drug-fueled violence.
“…the urge to create more dangerous footage entices Leah to push Benji into the spotlight of drug-fueled violence.”
A Brixton Tale prides itself on its performances. Lily Newmark and Ola Orebiyi capture the tone of each scene in even their smallest mannerisms. The screenplay is sparing with its actual dialogue, but when it happens, the words flow seamlessly through the actors like a real conversation. Newmark consistently gives a cold, almost Louis Bloom (from Nightcrawler) vibe as her character documents Benji’s spiral. By contrast, Orebiyi does an excellent job allowing his subtlety to guide Benji’s emotions, especially those just beneath the surface.
I was hooked quickly by A Brixton Tale, as the actors give just enough to draw viewers into this world of views-for-violence, or rather violence-for-views. The whole cast gives layered performances and adds depth to every wounded look or drugged haze. However, I wish this drama would let us marinate in the characters and relationships a bit longer. Clocking in at just over 70 minutes, the movie introduces Leah and Benji and then quickly introduces Leah’s danger-seeking documentary plans.
I am always appreciative of not spoon-feeding a plot, but I would love to have seen more build-up to the actual decision to glorify criminality in the name of viral videos. Despite any shortcomings, A Brixton Tale still tells an engaging story with authentic characters. I would recommend this to fans of understated dramas or those who enjoy stories about the class struggle in the digital age.
A Brixton Tale screened at the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival.
"…Lily Newmark and Ola Orebiyi capture the tone of each scene in even their smallest mannerisms."