Brash Young Turks is not about Turkish people; let’s get that out of the way. What it is, is a sharp tale of London “youth” and their shared desire for more. Whilst they might disagree on what more it is they want, what they all have is a need to not fit where society tells them or settle for the hand they are dealt in life but to dare to step into something unknown and, dare I say it, be brash.
The story behind the production of Brash Young Turks, in so many ways resembles what ended up on the screen. This debut feature film, from West London brothers Naeem and Ash Mahmood, started out in a Hackney youth centre, without a script or any real financial backing of any kind, with the main goal of making a feature film. The story was then developed through months of tireless improvisation with these young, sometimes first-time, actors and generated through collaboration. This allowed for actors to tell stories and details from their own experiences in their past and for the Mahmoods to add colour and mould a story around them.
The result is the story of Mia (Melissa Latouche) and “Tosh” (Paul Chiedozie) and their drastically contrasted views of what they want from life. Whilst Mia aims not to repeat the neglect of her mother and venture to China to teach, Tosh wants to grab the housing market by its gonads and destroy his old “sorority racist” boss in the process. This leads to blackmail, a love triangle and a bust-up or two as our heroes strive to overcome their situation and make something for themselves.
There are numerous strong performances from the newbie cast, and in particular the leads of Latouche and Chiedozie, who outdo some of the older cast. There is something to be said for the Mahmoods’ decision to allow the script to stem from improvisation too. Much of the dialogue from them feels authentic; which can be an issue when some white, middle-class screenwriters strangle young actors into keeping their darling lines exactly as they are written. This does not work quite so well on some of the longer exchanges of dialogue, which slow the pace temporarily but luckily these are few and far between.
The soundtrack also keeps the pulse-rate high throughout and scenes moving at a good clip; maybe a little too much music for a 90-minute film but that will be personal taste and nonetheless adds to the more recognisably “music-video”, painterly-look of the film. And it does look fantastic. The Notting Hill Carnival might only be one scene but the colour from it bleeds into the rest of the film, stylising London into a beautiful place to live. To the point where you need reminding on why it is exactly that these Young Turks want to leave. But then, the smack-in-the-face reminder from one of the film’s many antagonists and we are back with Mia and Tosh, wanting them to succeed in their escapist aspirations.
It is a hell of an achievement for this group of talented artists, regardless of lacking professional backgrounds, to create and distribute something so slick on such a shoe-string budget. It is rough around the edges and clichéd in parts, especially some of the more expositional pieces of dialogue or story beats, but Brash Young Turks is a fun, frenetic and physical fable of the coming-of-age of real London youths.