NW online movie review - Kilburn and the High Roads
NW is an adaptation of Zadie Smith's novel of interlinked stories of people living in and around Kilburn.
Leah (Phoebe Fox) is a white woman, happy with her partner but reluctant to become a mother. Natalie (Nikki Amuka-Bird) is a black woman who has worked her way to professional success as a barrister. She has got away from the tower blocks to a nice family home with a garden, garage and two kids with her husband who is also a barrister. She has even changed her name from Keisha to fit in more.
Leah and Natalie are childhood friends but they seem to be drifting apart and not being honest about their emotions. Leah is seen to be too trusting and naive giving someone money who came up with a sad sob story for example. When she finds out she may be pregnant she thinks of terminating it. Natalie is desperately unhappy despite her success and reaching middle class aspirations. We see her decked out in African fashion but secretly she is active using sex apps to get involved in group sex with strangers.
NW has two male characters who mingle through the lives of others. Nathan (Richie Campbell) is seen begging outside the tube station, he has gone through rough times and is an addict as well as a pimp. He was at school with Leah and Natalie and they fancied him then. He could do anything, was good at football and even at trials as a footballer with QPR.
Felix (OT Fagbenle) is a happy go lucky wheeler and dealer. He has an eye for the ladies, an easy manner and maybe going somewhere in his life. An act of kindness in a tube train has rubbed a local thug the wrong way who targets him.
You know there will be an air of tragedy underpinning the story. We see a gang of black thugs in the estate, their vile leader kicked Leah's dog to death and the police do not seem to touch him, then again no one seems to be calling the police in that estate.
The film explores these people in adulthood where they have lost their cuteness and are out in the big bad world alone. Leah is happy where she is. Natalie is desperately unhappy even with what she has achieved and now her husband wants out. Maybe Leah and Natalie were smart enough to work harder to get out of their predicament in North West London unlike Nathan.
The drama was nicely acted but I kind of felt it worked better for those who might be familiar with that part of London. I did wonder why no one called the police on that thug? Natalie lived in a posh house but it seemed she was still not too far from where she grew up rather than be out in the suburbs. Yet the film did raise interesting questions about identity, inequality and advancement, especially when Natalie talks to a senior black barrister.