Following the success of his 2014 YouTube series Shiro’s Story, writer-director Andrew Onwubolu (aka Rapman) partnered with BBC Films to adapt the tale as a feature length film. Despite the controversy surrounding the release of the movie, with cinema chains Vue and Showcase banning showings following violence at some screenings, this really is a vital movie with such a powerful anti-gang message at its core.
Two best friends, two different postcodes. Blue Story tells the timely tale of how an ongoing gang war in the estates of South East London turned a close friendship into a deadly rivalry. Following an attack on his friend Marco (Micheal Ward) by an old primary school friend, Timmy (Stephen Odubola) finds himself embroiled in a never ending cycle of violence between the Peckham Boys and Ghetto Boys.
With its distinct tale of two halves cleverly narrated by Rapman’s musical interludes, Blue Story plays out like like a Shakespearean tragedy with its representation of the futility of gang violence. Based on the personal experiences of the director, the first act is a compelling and often entertaining high school drama as Timmy and Marco navigate GCSEs, parties and falling in love, with the threat of gang warfare always looming. But one horrific incident changes both of their lives forever, and fast forward three years, the film takes a dark and gritty turn with an unflinching look at how these kids can get sucked into the never-ending cycle of violence and retaliation.
Onwubolu doesn’t shy away from the brutal violence of the turf war, cleverly framing it with the devastating effect it has on the young men’s mothers and families. One character thread in particular genuinely left me reeling. Featuring possibly one of the most authentic representations and perspectives on gang life, Blue Story paints the stark truth of how poverty, racism and the lack of prospects is very much affecting these kid’s lives. Onwubolu’s morality tale brings the rise in knife and violent crime in London to the forefront, with archive footage heavily weaved throughout to remind us of the raw truth, proving an important moment for black British film-making since Noel Clarke’s Kidulthood.
The tale is wonderfully brought to life by the young cast, with Stephen Odubola and Michael Ward the definite standouts. Odubola is utterly compelling as Timmy, undergoing a heartbreaking transformation throughout in a fantastic character arc. Shining brightest with co-star Karla-Simone Spence, the two bicker over Game of Thrones as their romance blossoms. Michael Ward, this year’s BAFTA Rising Star award winner, proves his worth as the intimidating Marco who’s clearly in over his depth.
Blue Story is a powerful and important British crime drama that truly packs an emotional punch, highlighting the needless tragedy and consequences of gang culture.