London Kills Me

Director: Hanif Kureishi
Screenwriters: Hanif Kureishi

Institute History

  • 1992 Sundance Film Festival


Hanif Kureishi, best known for his screenplays for Stephen Frears’s My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, makes his directorial debut with this poetic narrative about young street hustlers surviving in the Ladbrook borough of London. In the film Kureishi, acknowledged as one of Britain’s most original and innovative screenwriting talents, examines the lives of a gang of homeless, drug-dealing itinerants by essentially allowing us into their daily lives. As their day-to-day activities—hustling, stealing, dealing, finding food and shelter wherever they can—unfold, one realizes that they exist at the very brink of desperation, at the very edges of life. But they manage to survive, and even dream of upward mobility and of changing their lives for the better. One cannot help but come away from the film with a new appreciation for the indomitable human spirit which makes us persevere.

Clint (Justin Chadwick in his film debut) is so real you feel he’s been cast right off the street. Complex and intelligent, Clint tries to straighten out, and when he hears about a job in a new restaurant, he interviews for it and gets the job, provided he can come up with a decent pair of shoes. His quest for them becomes the motivating force in his life. Muffdiver (Steven Mackintosh) is the dominating leader of the group, aggressive and tough, who is trying to set up a big score. Clint and Muffdiver’s love for each other, and for Sylvie (Emer McCourt), sets off a complex chain of actions and emotions.

Kureishi is unique in his ability to authentically portray on film the lives of those who have no status in the world. But his is not a totally bleak vision; there is a vibrancy, a vitality, in their struggle which moves and uplifts us. The British cinema rarely ventures into the microcosm of the urban underclass, and it’s even rarer that a director has the ability to voice, in a painfully real fashion, but also with humor and pathos, the aspirations and hopes of those most marginal to English society. Grimly photographed with a terrific, hard-driving sound track, London Kills Me paints a memorable and affecting portrait of the constantly changing world of the street and builds a structure to contain its experiences.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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