Following on from the runaway success that Kidulthood achieved, actor-writer-director Noel Clarke would have been forgiven if his sophomore effort had turned out to be less than stellar. Instead, he built upon all the things that Kidulthood brought to the table. Choosing this time to direct as well, Clarke followed up with Adulthood, giving us a look at the characters of Kidulthood a few years down the line.
With his latest film, he’s handling all of the roles again. Written and directed by himself (co-directed by Mark Davis), and also starring himself in a less-than brief cameo, 126.96.36.199 tells the story of four girls embroiled in the aftermath of a diamond robbery. It also delves deeper into their lives, dealing with father-daughter relationships, marriage breakups, abortions and internet boyfriends. Spanning three days, in two cities, they’ve got one chance to impress, and they sort-of pull it off.
The overarching plot of 188.8.131.52 feels extremely underdeveloped -following one of the world’s biggest ever diamond heists, the stolen goods somehow end up in the hands of four mid-20s girls in London. The heist itself is barely touched upon, and when it is, it generally involves former Eastenders actress Michelle Ryan, who feels more than a little out of place.
Rumour has it that during a meeting to discuss a Kidulthood sequel, somebody in the room called into question the plausibility of the film’s female characters -and from that conversation, the script for 184.108.40.206 was conceived. If such rumours are to be believed, then you can’t help but feel like Clarke hasn’t really answered the questions asked of him here. The all-female foursome are all far too bolshie and in-your-face to be believable.
Up to bat first, is Shannon (Ophelia Lovibond). Lonely and depressed, her segment is overly-melodramatic and you can’t help but feel that the film limps along and suffers because of it. Sort-of-socialite Cassandra (Tamsin Egerton), whose segment adds some comic relief to the proceedings. Kerrys (Shanika Warren-Markland) is a lesbian and she wants everybody to know it. Strong-willed, independent and just a little bit outspoken, her character comes across at first as the least believable of the four. But she’s possibly the most developed, if you can look past the ridiculously short skirts. Rounding off the foursome is Joanne (Emma Roberts), a dainty American who somehow winds up working night shifts in a supermarket. How these four ever ended up as the close-knit group of girls that we’re supposed to believe they are remains to be seen.
Yet still, the film fairs better when its focus is on these characters, rather than the diamonds. Their stories and arcs clash together at various times during the ‘rewinds’, and sometimes you’re able to forget all about Michelle Ryan and her bloody diamonds.
Its influences are overwhelmingly obvious and splashed all over the screen. The shades of Pulp Fiction’s narrative are almost engulfed by how heavily it takes from Doug Liman’s Go . Where these two films were celebrated for their non-linear approach, 220.127.116.11’s stop-and-go play-and-rewind formula doesn’t feel very non-linear at all. A mechanism used a little too frequently in recent years, it’s been done far worse (Vantage Point ) and far better (Memento).
But Clarke knows his audience, and he doesn’t let this hamper the film to the degree that it could have done. Where the plot borrows from Pulp Fiction, the film itself strives to emulate Pulp Fiction’s lionized director. The whole thing plays out almost as Tarantino-lite, with enough style, verve and humour to almost cover over the cracks.