The Romeo and Juliet story never gets old, but the mix of youthful romance and rivalry has rarely been put across with such brute force as in this sinewy Belgian drama.
The outline is familiar, as 15-year-old Mavela (Martha Canga Antonio, a real find), the latest female recruit to Brussels gang the Black Bronx, falls for Moroccan boy Marwan (Aboubakr Bensaihi, equally strong). The two meet after being picked up separately by the police. Both are involved in petty crime already, and although a church in mid-restoration offers the lovers a brief refuge from their rival clans – he’s in the 1080s, named after their local postcode – confrontation is not far away.
And the Belgian-Moroccan directors certainly don’t bottle it, unleashing crunching carnage and some upsetting sexual violence to show how the gangs’ reign of fear victimises the women who come along for the ride then can’t break free. Against a backdrop of tensions between French and Flemish speakers, this is a forceful presentation of social divisions and the urgent need for change from within.