Time Out says
This low-budget British indie from first-time feature filmmaker Rob Brown takes troubling, inflammatory subject matter – the legacy of child conscription in the Congo – and soft-soaps it into melodrama. Roger Nsengiyumva plays Jumah, a teenage refugee whose violent past threatens to erupt into the present when he witnesses a violent crime committed by a schoolmate. Torn between personal retribution and confessing to the police, Jumah’s tightly managed surface begins to crack.
The problem with ‘Sixteen’ is that writer-director Brown seems less interested in his characters and more in what they represent. Every figure on the screen feels emblematic and one-note: Jumah is terse and troubled, his adoptive mother Laura (Rachael Stirling) is grave and concerned, the local dealer Liam (Sam Spruell) is smarmy and threatening. It doesn’t help that the performances – an impressively controlled Nsengiyumva aside – are as flat as the writing.
Brown refuses to ask tough questions or present any real moral dilemmas: there’s never any doubt as to what the ‘right’ path is, or whether Jumah will take it. The result is a film unable or unwilling to face the very real horror of its subject.
Cast and crew