Poisson Rouge Pictures/FilmOne Distribution
Directed by Destiny Ekarahga
Produced by Christopher Granier-Deferre
Written by Bola Agbaje based on her play “Gone Too Far!”
There’s a scene in GONE TOO FAR! where three black London youths (well one of them actually looks white but as he forlornly admits; “Even my mother calls me black and she’s white.”) are getting high on pot and having a philosophical discussion about race and identity. One of the youths demands that the others explain why if they’re all black and come from the same heritage then why is there such discord and animosity between Africans, West Indians, Ghanaians and Jamaicans in London? “What about Somalians?” one of the other boys ask to which his friend retorts; “Somalians don’t count. They ain’t black. They’re a whole other breed, bruv.”
Like the best of comedies, GONE TOO FAR! manages to say a whole lot about some truly serious issues and attitudes without beating you over the head with it and making you laugh a whole lot in the process. And it being set in a London estate which is their version of what we call “the projects” here in the States allows for a fascinating look into a world of black culture that is very different from black culture here but at the same time is very familiar.
Yemi (Malachi Kirby) enjoys his life of football (soccer to you Yanks) and chasing girls. In particular the stuck-up Armani (Shanika Warren-Markland) who looks down on Africans and dark-skinned blacks in general and that includes her long-suffering sidekick Paris (Adelayo Adedayo) who Armani keeps around primarily to feed her earthquake sized ego and because she thinks that Paris is a lesbian who has a crush on her. And Armani lives for people to have crushes on her. The two things standing in the way of Yemi’s pursuit of Armani? Armani’s insanely jealous boyfriend Razer (Tosin Cole) and the arrival of Yemi’s older brother Ikudayisi (OC Ukeje) who has been away attending school in Nigeria and hasn’t seen Yemi since he was three years old.
Ikudayisi is delighted to see his brother and his mother (the hilarious Golda John) and wants nothing more than to bond with his younger brother. Yemi sees Ikudayisi as nothing but an embarrassment in his way of speaking, his clothing (he wears sandals with socks) and demands Ikudayisi fit in. Ikudayisi is not ashamed of who he is and is appalled that his brother does not speak Yoruba and has no desire to learn. Their mother sends them to the market to get okra for dinner and that propels the brothers into a day-long adventure where they confront their feelings about each other and through their encounters with the various residents of the estate of different races, learn something about racial identity.
A movie like GONE TOO FAR! I find refreshing to watch for a couple of reasons. The first is that it allows me to spend some time with people and get a look into their lives. How they speak (I love the slang used in this movie, fam) how they dress (which isn’t at all different from how young people here in America dress) and their interactions with each other.
Second is that I love a movie that gives me fresh faces to look at. It adds a level of unpredictability to the movie because since I’ve never seen any of these actors before, there’s no feeling that I know what they’re going to do or say. if this was an American movie I feel confident in saying that I could accurately predict thirty minutes in where the movie was going. But I couldn’t with this one. And that’s a large part of what kept me interested in watching as I had no idea where these characters were going to end up by the end credits.
The cast on the whole is delightful and endearing to watch. Malachi Kirby and OC Ukeje don’t resemble each other (Something Yemi himself points out when he tries to convince their mother that this guy must an imposter who has stolen Ikudayisi’s identity) but it didn’t take them long for them to convince me they were brothers, that’s the kind of onscreen rapport they have. Shanika Warren-Markland is That Chick we have all encountered at one time or another. We may have dated her or been best friends with her or just knew her from around the way but we knew her and knew exactly what she was all about. The movie’s MVP is Golda John who cracked me up every time she appeared on screen especially in a scene where she’s stalking the neighborhood looking for her wayward sons and loudly proclaiming to the entire neighborhood in two languages what she’s going to do to them when she catches up to them. That and the scene where Armani gets into an argument with the owners of a Chinese restaurant are not to be missed as I had to pause the movie and take a minute to get myself together, I was laughing so hard.
Once again, I have to thank my wife Patricia as she has an absolute gift for finding quirky, charming international comedies like GONE TOO FAR! on Netflix and Amazon. Don’t feel like fighting traffic to trek to your local cinema? Then stay at home and chill out with GONE TOO FAR! You won’t regret it. Enjoy.