Being a middle-aged white liberal, I rely heavily on the broadsheets to tell me about what the young people are up to. Millennials, it turns out, are work-shy, stupid and drug-addled wasters who don’t even have the decency to drink anymore. Or at least that seems to be the impression of the privileged. Young working-class voices are poorly served by the British Film Industry. There are few directors and writers making films which are representative of urban youth. Noel Clarke is a notable exception with his trilogy (Kidulthood/Adulthood/Brotherhood) being both commercially and critically successful. Ed Lilly’s feature debut VS. is an important story about growing up in the modern world.
After his mother (Emily Taaffe) gave him up at a young age, Adam (Connor Swindells) has been in several foster homes. This trauma has left him psychologically damaged and his temper has led to him burning most of his bridges, but his social worker (Nicholas Pinnock) still believes in him. Adam meets Mak (Fola Evans-Akingbola) in an arcade and she introduces him to the world of battle-rap. A competitive arena where he can channel his aggression and his inner angst.
VS. is a fresh and vibrant portrait of young people trying to make something good for themselves in a dilapidated seaside resort. Towns like Southend are failing their youth.
Ed Lilly’s film is about focusing your energies on something positive and being part of a collective rather than just an individual. There’s good acting and strong messaging throughout. VS. is a vibrant and febrile glimpse into a world where words are the weapon of choice.
VS. is released on DVD by Altitude Film Entertainment on 11 February. It’s also available on VoD and Digital now.