Film Review: Sixteen


Sixteen is an adequate debut feature from Rob Brown. The film is sufficiently entertaining although it is imperfect to say the least.

Jumah, an adopted former child soldier from Congo is about to turn sixteen. Jumah is keen to put his violent past behind him and look to make a career for himself. When he witnesses a violent act, however, Jumah is in danger of being pulled back in…

The premise of Sixteen is interesting enough. Brown’s film could have been an engaging character study of a traumatised young boy. The film does focus on Jumah’s difficulty in letting go of his past, but this is not presented in a particularly compelling manner.

The film ticks the boxes of a youth-orientated British drama, but there is a hollowness to it. The main characters are not endearing enough for the audience to really care about their fates.

Sixteen is never boring, but it fails to engage viewers. The story is suitable, even if some characters appear a little clichéd. The narrative feels insubstantial. The climax of the film needed to be a lot more fraught than it actually is.

There is no strong visual style in Sixteen. Direction is adequate. The depiction of the London estate appears sanitised. Violence is frequently   on display, but it is never difficult to watch or shocking.

Performances are a little wooden in the first few scenes, but these improve as the film progresses. The initial conversations between Roger Nsengiyumva’s Jumah and Rachel Stirling’s Laura appear stilted, but both their performances become more convincing later on.

Ultimately, Sixteen needed to be grittier or more imaginative in its narrative to be a memorable film.

Sixteen receives its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2013.