Thursday 17 October 2013

At the LFF: "Gone Too Far!"

1993 saw the release of Gurinder Chadha's Bhaji on the Beach, one of those well-intentioned crowdpleasers that wasn't ever likely to take the BAFTAs by storm, but was evidently the start of something noteworthy, not least for Chadha's career; in the two decades since, henna and sag aloo have become staple ingredients of British cinema - and, beyond that, British life. Gone Too Far!, the Peckham-set debut of Anglo-Nigerian director Destiny Ekaragha, gives off much the same vibe: adapted from Bola Agbaje's Olivier Award-winning stageplay, it uses the odyssey of a would-be playa forced to babysit an embarrassing older brother from Nigeria as a way of shirttailing a particular conversation playing out on the streets of the inner city.

Though all skin colours are represented, this isn't quite the same territory as Kidulthood, and not so very far from the Peckham of Del Boy and co. The humour is broad - characters are chased by dogs, and walk blindly into lampposts - yet often disarming: one bad boy knocks an old dear off the pavement with his bike at one point, only to then go back and give her a hug. The big difference between this and the more earnest Bhaji is that the talk Ekaragha's camera overhears clearly comes from the end of a conversation, and not the beginning. Though these characters endlessly debate racial distinctions ("even my mum calls me black, and I'm white"), they almost always find themselves with more pressing matters to be getting on with, whether nipping to the shop on an errand, trying to get laid, or - in one particularly lovely image, carefully positioned at the heart of the film - rollerskating with friends: white, black, whatever.

It's undeniably episodic in form, and that it's pitched chiefly at a home crowd is evident from the decision to preserve Agbaje's patois-heavy dialogue more or less intact and without subtitles, but much of it does feel fresh (there's no Adam Deacon, which is a start), and its unabashed, front-and-centre enthusiasm - its sense of look, we're making a film! - is both infectious and gets it most of the way to the finish line. In twenty years, I predict okra will play more of a role in British cinema than it presently does - and we'll have Agbaje and Ekaragha to thank for it.

Gone Too Far! screens at the Odeon West End tomorrow (Fri 18), the Hackney Picturehouse on Saturday, and the Vue West End on Sunday; ticket details can be found here.

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