Obey – Review [Tribeca 2018]

Obey is playing at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. Find screening information HERE.

By I. Simon

Writer/director Jamie Jones makes his feature film debut with Obey, which stars newcomer Marcus Rutherford, Sophie Kennedy Clark (The Danish Girl) and T’Nia Miller (Born to Kill). For a feature film debut, Obey is not a bad film at all. Even with its flaws, the movie is actually quite good.

Set during the 2011 London riots, Obey follows Leon (Marcus Rutherford), who tries to grapple with the situation he is dealing with in his life, while simultaneously returning home to take care of his alcoholic mother (T’Nia Miller) and adjust to life as an adult after an adolescence spent in and out of foster care. He then meets Twiggy (Sophie Kennedy Clark) and falls in love for the first time. As rumblings of riots begin in the streets and police and protesters engulf his neighborhood, Leon must decide whether to join his friends and fight or seek a new life with Twiggy.

Jamie Jones’s direction & script are both really good for a first time feature. He tells this story in a way that feels very raw and realistic, rather than being emotionally manipulative. Visually, this film looks pretty good for a first feature (giving the film a raw, gritty feel), and the film also has its moments of tension. The characterization of Leon is pretty great as well, and I sympathized with him more than I expected to. Some of the best scenes of the film include when Leon is just interacting with Twiggy or his mother, which is why I wish that his relationship with his mother was explored more in the film. All of the characters in the film are realistically portrayed and written, though I do wish that many of the supporting characters (namely Leon’s friends) had a bit more depth. On the bright side, the narrative for the most part manages to be engaging throughout, and the dialogue works as well. All of the production values are solid. The cinematography and sets are good, capturing the gritty environment that gives the film an authentic feel. There is some shaky cam, but it works for this film and its narrative. The film editing is pretty solid. The sound and score aren’t bad at all either.

The acting in this film ranges from decent to superb, the standout being Marcus Rutherford, who does a superb job portraying Leon’s struggle of dealing with all that is happening in his life, and to try to accept that the riots and other hardships that he is dealing with aren’t going to be solved easily. Sophie Kennedy Clark and T’Nia Miller are also great here. The rest of the performances are solid as well.

While Obey isn’t without its flaws, it does make for a good first feature from writer/director Jamie Jones that is worth seeing, especially given the current political climate today. I have a feeling that this film will resonate with a lot of people, and the last shot of the film will likely stick with me for quite some time.

I give Obey a B.

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