DVD Sixteen

DVD Sixteen
DVD Sixteen

Run time: 80 min
Rating: 7.3
Genres: Thriller
Director: Rob Brown
Writers: Rob Brown
Stars: Roger Jean Nsengiyumva, Rachael Stirling, Rosie Day
SIXTEEN is an urban thriller about an African former child soldier called Jumah was brought to London by Laura, an aid worker who he now lives with. Jumah is about to turn 16 in two days and wants to leave his violent past behind him. Things seem to have taken a turn for the better with Jumah now; he has a sweet but tentative romance blossoming with a girl at school. But then Jumah witnesses a stabbing and the people involved want to make sure that he says nothing to the police about what he saw that night. Pressure mounts as violence forces it’s way back into Jumah’s life. Written by Anonymous
Country: UK
Release Date: 14 October 2013 (UK)


  1. * Reviewed following a screening at Bath Film Festival, 25 November to 8 December 2013 *

    Wrongly, Sixteen (2013) felt like it might be just too many things jostling for screen-time, which usefully put one edge – as to whether the enterprise would succeed – in the way that Jumah (Roger Nsengiyumva) must feel, and which John Bowen's effective score accentuates (more on that later), for we have :

    * A love story

    * A child soldier from Congo (who, as with many who have been in conflicts, probably has something like post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD))

    * The love between a mother and her adoptive son

    * Petty crime that has got out of hand

    * Reaching a time (the sixteen of the title) when the future has to be considered

    * Fighting one's own battles

    I swear that these do all fit together, and the unifying force is that soundtrack, which – as I put it in the Q&A – moves from disturbingly menacing to uncertain to sensual, when Jumah is asked to give his girlfriend Chloe (Rosie Day) a haircut, and back again, and which has an otherworldly quality to it : writer / director Rob Brown, who has worked with Bowen before, said that what he was after with scoring the edit was understood by Bowen, but that a sound such as that of Brian Eno and others had been mentioned. (I also heard Peter Gabriel's sort of open chords.)

    In my opinion, the score tautened one's awareness of the past that Jumah brings with him, and fed a sense of how he must be feeling into what we saw – someone being attacked might have one resonance (in, say, a film like Witness (1985)), but here we were aware (from sources such as War Witch (2012)) of the brutalizing world in which he had been forced to live. Except with very low-frequency growling, it did not mask its presence, and it partly distanced us from the early shock of some events, just as Jumah might have been in situation but not wholly present in them.

    This sort of character was what Brown said that he had been aiming at, and which had drawn him in other film projects, effectively someone who had certain experiences and for whom living is difficult. As a foil to him, Day's portrayal of Chloe was perfect – one sensed that, beneath her confidence, she did, as she told Jumah, want to be helped to feel positive about herself, and that she, if she can be helped in return, has resources of trust and validation that can help him heal.

    Above these two, Rachael Stirling, as Jumah's mum Laura, acted exceptionally well how she sought to bear with him, from the moment when she comes into his bedroom and Chloe and he are resting in each other's arms to wanting to hold him back, and not knowing what he might do : that moment when he decides who he is and what he wants feels so unstable, and we cut away to her with no certainty what might happen.

    The atmosphere of the film, with this excellent score, is electric, and one even feels that, as with War Witch's title-character Komona, there may be some sixth sense in play for Jumah to be in the right place several times. This is not an easy ride much of the time, but that tactile quality of the hair, and all the feeling that comes from the other great film with that theme, Patrice Leconte's The Hairdresser's Husband (Le mari de la coiffeuse) (1990), plus the tenderness between Chloe and Jumah, soften it sufficiently.

  2. Rob Brown's feature film debut is an interesting character piece and is well worth viewing. Unfortunately it falls short in supplying a real slap in the face to viewers considering the main character's past and the central issue (a life after being a child soldier). This topic has so much meat its almost too huge a cinematic goldmine to thoroughly investigate in the 80 minutes supplied in this version of events.

    It should be a breathtaking film in all aspects, however it occasionally lets itself down by falling into clichés and fails to surprise or shock, more often than one would like.

    It has a nice central performance by Roger Nsengiyumva especially when paired with his female romantic lead (Rosie Day), their chemistry has a certain allure and is well filmed, the drama and comedy invoked in the scenes between these two characters create a likability in the film that is undeniable.

    Some of the more violent and threatening sequences are also well handled and leave the viewer on edge, wanting more, which is sometimes where I was left disappointed as all the violence comes in bursts. An example of this is the tunnel sequence (Which supplies the central and most violent conflict) was sub-par and poorly directed for my tastes. I was impressed with the direction in large sections and upset with it in other portions, this unevenness is the only real giveaway that it is a first timer directing (maybe the budget constraints as well).

    I feel that good things could await Rob Brown as a director (less as a writer) and also the young central actors (less so the supporting male youngsters, who i thought could have used more direction and coaching on the more drama heavy and dialog ridden sections)

    Overall definitely worth a look 6/10

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