The film City of Tiny Lights written by Patrick Neate is a screenplay adaptation of Neate’s original novel also named ‘City of Tiny Lights’ which was originally released in 2005. Soon to be realised on the 7th April 2017 and directed by Pete Travis, City Of Tiny Lights will be ready to take its place as a new British crime thriller. The Film takes a modern approach to the film noir genre consisting of a culturally diverse main cast starring Riz Ahmed and Cush Jumbo.
Spoilt for choice with London’s historical landmarks, common bricked walls and endless stoned pavements, the west London location helps the aesthetic of the film to set the tone with a dark and gloomy mood which helps to convey the crime thriller genre.
Riz Ahmed last seen on the big screen in Rogue One does a good job playing the main character Tommy Akhtar. Tommy is a private detective who is hired to find a missing prostitute Natasha by her flatmate Melody played by Cush Jumbo. In doing so he uncovers corruption within his local community involving his old friend Lovely played by James Floyd and possible links to terrorist cover-ups within the government. All, whilst trying to reconnect with his old love flame. The narrative also touches on themes of social acceptance and the challenges faced by young people with different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, and their conflict in understanding their identity.
Riz Ahmed embodies the hardened street-wise detective character Tommy very well, always showing a sense of empathy his characters always possess. Throughout the film we see Tommy’s struggles in trying to live a fulfilled life whilst being haunted by his past and guilt over his best friend Stuart’s death a number of years ago. The character Tommy is very depressing to watch at times. He is miserable and gloomy; the most passion he expresses is whilst working on his case, being violent or whilst smoking a cigarette. Despite Tommy being the main character the audience never gets to know much about him in his present life beyond the fact that he is a private detective. Basic elements like where does Tommy sleep is never revealed. His personal habitat is never revealed beyond his office and his father’s front
room. The most personal information is revealed during the use of various flash backs showing Tommy and his friends as young teens, and circumstances surrounding Stuart’s death are slowly revealed. This in time allows the audience to understand why Tommy is the way he is.
Tommy appears to be in a mental state of stagnation, which is magnified by the return of his best friend Stuart’s girlfriend and old love interest Shelley played by Billie Piper, and the reconnection with his old friend Lovely. Around Shelley we see life and dynamics in Tommy’s character expressed in the way he interacts with her whilst getting lost in various flash backs to their childhood and young teens. Within the flash backs we see a young Tommy, second generation immigrant longing for social acceptance and for a sense of belonging and was willing to risk it all to be a part of a social group. Once accepted this was one of the happiest times of Tommy’s life, until the tragic death of Stuart. Lovely and Shelly appears to have moved on and built successful lives which appear to be well structured and fulfilled whilst Tommy still wallows in regret.
My feeling is that the film has a much textured narrative where the director merges various story lines into one, which made City Of Tiny Lights pleasant to watch. However, whilst the intention may have been to make it more interesting and thought-provoking for the audience, I found the mere scratching of the surface of various story lines only detracted from the momentum throughout the film. Even though each story line was interesting and if only developed separately, could stand on their own with their independent narrative. However, collaboratively it left many questions unanswered with gaps that disrupted the continuity. But indie film fans should go and see it and enjoy it for what is it. Rating: ♥♥♥/♥♥♥♥♥
Written by Acacia Northe for Colourful Radio
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