Idris Elba made his directorial debut with the crime-drama Yardie, starring Aml Ameen, Shantol Jackson, Stephan Graham, Sheldon Shepherd, Everaldo Creary, Akin Gazi and Mark Rhino Smith; based on the novel of the same name written by Jamaican-born author Victor Headly.
Based in 70s Kingston and 80s Hackney, Yardie tells the story of Dennis “D” Campbell (Ameen) who is still reeling from the murder of his older brother as a boy. Ten years on, D now works for record producer and drug kingpin King Fox (Sheperd), who sends D to Hackey to deliver cocaine to gangster Rico. During his time there, D finds himself struggling to turn onto a path of righteousness or down a road that may strip him of his humanity.
Aml Ameen’s performance was captivating as he takes the audience on a gripping, breath-taking journey as D works to become his own man not only as a gangster but a father. Throughout the film, Ameen showcases strength, vulnerability. Shantol Jackson’s portrayal as Yvonne was played with strength and grace which made for a convicting and compelling performance.
The on-screen chemistry between D and Yvonne – D’s childhood love and mother of his child portrayed by Shantol Jackson – is undeniable, with their interactions with one another being believable and natural. The shared scenes offered some well-needed comfort. Yvonne’s storyline follows her moving away from Jamaica, wanting to give their daughter a better life away from the gang violence that was consuming Kingston. Jackson gives this role life as she showcases the complexities of being a single, immigrant mother and trying to keep her daughter safe from the mess the D has brought from Jamaica to London with him. Additionally, it was refreshing to see a dark-skinned woman as the love interest as that is a rarity in Hollywood.
While not as frequent as the grittier scenes, these memorable moments added some well-needed balance to the overall dark tone for Yardie. For example, there is a specific scene where Yvonne is cutting off D’s dreadlocks and it was by far one of the most powerful scenes in the movie. It was a rare moment throughout the film where D relaxes amidst the turmoil of coming to London, contrasting with other scenes where they were intense and aggressive, such as when D was confronting the man that murdered his brother ten years before.
The first act was well paced and set a good foundation and overall somber tone for the rest of the film. However, while expecting a climactic ending, Yardie’s final act started to drag with the conclusion falling flat as we left to see D living happily ever after with his wife Yvonne and two children; while that’s not a bad thing, we’re left to wonder if there were any consequences for his actions.
The colours and visuals of the opening scene perfectly reflect the vibrancy of Jamaica while simultaneously contrasting the dark nature of gang violence as the colour palette consisted of bright greens and blue, as well as warm beige; however that did not make those scene look flat. The first scene set in Hackney is dark and gritty which does match the darkness of gang violence in London at the time, and creates imagery of the two different worlds in which D is living. Here, the colour palette was a lot smokier, consisting off dark blues and greys.
The music the accompanied Yardie was well chosen as Elba gives us UK sound system culture blended in with reggae. This combination of genres is a representation of two different sides clashing together, and given Elba’s experience as a DJ, it seems right that he would have some influence on the music choice.
Though not perfect, Idris Elba’s directorial debut shows promise as he creates a film with depth and heart while also being harsh and realistic. Elba does a good job telling the story of a man being forced to grow up and move on from the trauma that he has experienced. From the very being, Yardie pulls you in with a well-written plot and phenomenal performances from Aml Ameen, Shantol Jackson and Sheldon Shepherd.
You can watch the trailer for Yardie here.
Photo via traileraddict.com