This documentary on no-hope teenagers in Coventry naturally had sections of the press crying scandal. But simply applauding the film's 'honest realism' in its depiction of a daily round of glue-sniffing, aggressive racism, and sexism isn't adequate defence. The problem is that the self-effacing method blocks any attempt by the film-makers to analyse/account for the disturbing discourses which speak through their subjects. Instead, the latter are simply given screen space to perform - see them weep, throw up, abuse blacks, and threaten violence. Realism or voyeuristic exploitation? Predictably, the only hint of contradiction comes from the teenagers themselves, some of whom display an ironic self-awareness at odds with the project's low-key miserabilism. Towards the end, a freeze-frame unites black and white at a Specials concert: a revealingly artificial gesture, which in this context seems desperately and pathetically romantic.
Kim Longinotto, Lizzie Lemon