Timmy (Stephen Odubola) and Marco (Micheal Ward) are best friends who go to the same high school in Peckham but live in different, warring postcodes. Initially content to stay out of the fight and remain friends, they soon find themselves on opposite sides of a gang war.
To fully appreciate Blue Story, it’s important to note how it came to fruition. It’s the feature debut of British grime rapper Andrew Onwubolu, aka Rapman, who became a YouTube sensation with a viral trilogy of short films dubbed Shiro’s Story last year. The clout that came with that success helped get a feature-length adaptation of a YouTube series Onwubolu had made in 2014 to the big screen, and the result is a hard-hitting, semi-autobiographical morality tale that manages to feel both new and familiar.
A well told story with a worthwhile, if not especially revolutionary message.
The fresh part of that equation is epitomised by Rapman himself, who pops up in multiple scenes to provide raw and energetic musical interludes. It’s an effectively deployed gambit that alternates between adding colour to the movie’s various threads and driving them forward, the skilful lyrics smoothly delivered.
It’s not quite enough, however, for Blue Story to differentiate itself from other stories of its ilk. There’s lots of shared DNA with the Kidulthood trilogy, Top Boy (in which Ward also stars) and more, and while the depressing inevitability of the gang war cycle is one of the movie’s key themes, it doesn’t make the overfamiliarity any less of an issue.
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Still, it’s a well told story with a worthwhile, if not especially revolutionary message — gang wars are not worth dying for, and you don’t have to follow the cycle — that hits home, with attention being paid to making sure the small details such as the unapologetically British language in both sets of gangs feel just as authentic as the larger themes.
It’s all anchored by two impressive performances from relative newcomers Odubola and Ward, whose chemistry is just as strong in conflict as it is in friendship. Similarly, the likeable romance between Odubola’s Timmy and Karla-Simone Spence’s Leah is frequently able to strike sweet and tender notes amidst all the male posturing. If it doesn’t completely grip, Blue Story announces several emerging talents who have bright futures ahead of them.
The musical interludes in which Rapman narrates significant plot points offer a welcome change of pace, but the subject matter at play here is a little too common to truly stand out from the pack.