By Admin | December 2, 2004

Beauty and ugliness do not necessarily have to be opposites. What is pleasing to the eye can be repellant to the mind, which is implied in John Keats’s belief that “beauty is truth, truth beauty.” We never say “the beautiful truth;” we say “the ugly/awful truth.” Amma Asante’s film “A Way of Life” takes the latter to a profound level, conveying that beauty can be found even in the bleakness of real life.

Set in Wales, “A Way of Life” is about a group of four teenagers that want nothing more than their present tense to be over so that a better future tense can rush in and everything will be all right. Robbie (Gary Sheppeard) wants to get away from their little Welsh town; Stephen (Dean Wong) wants to forget his ethnically mixed background; Gavin (Nathan Jones) tries his best to get through each day; and Leigh-Anne (Stephanie James) is struggling to raise her infant daughter. The film focuses on Leigh-Anne and the obstacles and problems she must continually endure and handle. Low on money, convinced that social services will take her child away, and without any healthy role models to emulate, she only has her brother Gavin and his two friends for support and friendship.

Spending nearly every waking minute with a look of frustration and irritation on her face, Leigh-Anne Leigh-Anne is damned no matter what she does. Neglecting her child’s sickness would decrease the likelihood of social services interfering even more than they already have, but it could also lead to death. Giving her daughter the proper care (such as going to a hospital), though, would increase the probability that she will lose her. Victim to her own emotions and paranoia, she taunts and instigates confrontations between her friends and her immigrant neighbor until a life is eventually lost.

Writer-director Asante creates characters that are neither likeable nor despicable, but that are fragile, inextricably tied to the actions of other people. The point isn’t that you unconditionally empathize, identity with, or even hope their worries are alleviated. Yet, this vulnerability is the element of beauty that lies in the film’s tragic conclusion and in the verity that real people’s lives aren’t too different.

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