A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.
Noel Clarke is a man who clearly takes Browning’s famous adage to heart. For proof just watch his ambitious girl power caper thriller 126.96.36.199. – the flashy tale of a quartet of sassy college girlfriends who get caught up in the aftermath of a jewel heist.
You’ll probably recall Clarke as the annoying boyfriend of Billie Piper’s Rose on Doctor Who. Since those days he’s become what Hollywood calls a Triple Threat or Multi-Hyphenate. He acts, he writes, he directs.
Kidulthood – an edgy, energetic crime melodrama about coke-snorting, hoodie-wearing, happy-slapping teenagers in West London – showed off Clarke as writer and star. For the follow-up, Adulthood, he took on directing duties too.
This brace of rude-boy melodramas were Brit hits, but Clarke admits he was stung by criticism that he couldn’t write female characters and resolved to write a female-driven story.
The four girls he’s created are:
- Kerrys (Shanika Warren-Markland)- a stroppy streetwise lesbian with father issues
- Shannon (Ophelia Lovibond) – a self-harming graffiti artist with mother issues
- Jo (Emma Roberts, niece of you know who) – an expat Yank mini-market shelf-stacker with a stony broke mum and step-dad
- Cassandra (Tamsin Egerton) – a leggy blonde piano prodigy with a filthy rich mum and dad
Clarke gets this foursome mixed up in the dodgy fallout from a diamond robbery (and it’s not any old diamonds that have been stolen, you understand, but conflict diamonds). Straining credulity just a tad, the middlemen through whose hands the loot is supposed to pass are… well I never… a bunch of West London rude boys.
Instead, the hot ice ends up in the girls’ possession. At least, it does after Clarke has woven together the four strands of his tricksy narrative, which tells the girls’ individual stories – one at a time – over the course of one weekend.
The plotting is clumsy, the characterisation scraggy and the dialogue clunky – but you can’t accuse Clarke of lacking ambition, even if his film does display a yawning gulf between aspiration and accomplishment.
On general release from 2nd June.