A Missed Opportunity
Showcasing the grimy underbelly of Britain is something that’s been done countless times before on the big screen. From Football Factory and Green Street through to the Kidulthood trilogy, there’s a whole wealth of films that capture that dangerous criminality rife in the darkest corners of the country. Dagenham is a film that tries, and ultimately fails, to capture this. The pieces are there but unfortunately a lack of empathetic characters and a messy plot with far too many under-cooked ideas make this more of a missed opportunity than it should be.
A brief introduction opens the film, where two men, Vinny and Billy, await a few men arriving in their van. Things soon go awry and a couple of gunshots later, the two men chop the assailant’s arm off. From here, we’re introduced to Kim, Billy’s girlfriend, who struggles to raise her two kids in the midst of the criminality around her. As she juggles her daughter’s rebellious nature and her son’s desire to leave, a chain of events see the film cut forward a year where the rest of the story takes place.
From here, a drug-fueled plot takes over, with a missing bag of cocaine acting as the catalyst for a chain of events that lead to murder and Kim’s family life imploding in a flurry of soap-opera drama. Unfortunately during this time, the film fails to really allow us to empathise with any of the characters along the way.
In an effort to capture the tone and mood of Dagenham, the film’s script is littered with swearing. Almost every line of dialogue includes cursing in one form or another to the point where it waters down its impact. It also feels incredibly unnatural too and the dialogue regularly feels contrived and akin to that of a soap opera.
It’s a shame too as there’s certainly potential here but between the lack of empathetic characters and a messy plot, some interesting camera work just isn’t enough to save this one, especially next to so many other options in this category.