Film review: County Lines (15)

Conrad Khan as Tyler in County Lines (directed by Henry Blake) courtesy of BFI

Conrad Khan as Tyler in County Lines (directed by Henry Blake) courtesy of BFI - Credit: Archant

Henry Blake’s feature debut about a teenager groomed to sell drugs in a depressed seaside town is unrelentingly bleak but has depth, insight and visual impact

Harris Dickinson in County Lines (directed by Henry Blake) courtesy of BFI

Harris Dickinson in County Lines (directed by Henry Blake) courtesy of BFI - Credit: Archant

The headline-grabbed title makes this sound opportunistic, but Blake’s feature debut has a depth and insight that should give it lasting relevance and value.

Lonely 14-year-old Tyler (Khan) is groomed by Simon (Dickinson) to work as a mule, ferrying drugs around the south-east. It’s an opportunity to support his family and break out of his grim life in a dreary London suburb; by travelling out to dreary seaside dumps. He’s only 14 but already a commuter.

As a vision of modern-day Britain, it is so unrelentingly grim it makes you yearn for one of those nice Ken Loach films. It does though have something more to offer than the standard Britflick tale of woe. Usually in such films, the camera looks as though it’s been plonked down anywhere but writer/ director Blake has a tremendous eye for composition, and getting the maximum impact from a scene.

Often the background is blurred to give it more immediacy and emphasise Tyler’s isolation.

Conrad Khan as Tyler in County Lines (directed by Henry Blake) courtesy of BFI

Conrad Khan as Tyler in County Lines (directed by Henry Blake) courtesy of BFI - Credit: Archant

Blake looks like a real filmmaker. He can make 90 minutes of English misery worth sitting through; imagine what he could do with a happy film.

4/5 stars

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Starring Conrad Khan, Harris Dickinson, Ashley Madekwe, Marcus Rutherford, Carlyss Peer, and Chizzy Akudolu. In cinemas and digital platforms from December 4. Running time: 90 mins.

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