Farming

Young Nigerian boy Enitan (Damson Idris) is ‘farmed out’ by his parents to a white British family in the hope he’ll secure a better life for himself. But as a teen, his self-loathing over his racial identity leads him to become a member of a white skinhead gang led by vicious sociopath Levi (John Dagleish).

By Amon Warmann | Posted 5 days ago

There’s a compelling film buried somewhere in Farming — which sees actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje turn his traumatic early life into a disturbing drama for his directorial debut — but it is ultimately lost amidst the unrelenting violence the film continually subjects us to.

All we’re left with is the bleak and repetitive humiliations the director’s avatar endures.

Much of that brutality is perpetrated on Enitan (played as a child by Zephan Amissah, before morphing into Idris as a teen), and every time you think you’ve reached the nadir there’s more physical and psychological torture (sometimes both) just around the corner. Indeed, Farming spends a lot of screen time meticulously charting how Enitan goes from neglected and bullied foster kid to victim-turned-member of the ‘Tilbury Skins’, and once he arrives on screen, Dagleish is appropriately unnerving as the leader of the white skinhead gang.

The complete rejection of Enitan’s blackness is portrayed with fierce intensity by Idris, and Akinnuoye-Agbaje has a knack for conjuring up some vivid imagery; a black face covered up with white talcum powder is a particularly striking visual. But without the character development to go with it, all we’re left with is the bleak and repetitive humiliations the director’s avatar endures. By the time Farming even begins to think about Enitan’s redemption we’re into the final ten minutes of the movie and it’s too little, too late.

That might have been offset if Farming actually took the time to interrogate the rotten system that forms its title, but there’s precious little by way of actual insights. Additionally, it doesn’t help that Kate Beckinsale and Gugu Mbatha-Raw can only do so much with archetypal, thinly sketched characters that are in desperate need of more nuance and screen time.

Though the central performance is impressively raw Farming’s uncompromising bleakness drowns out the fascinating story, making it a far tougher watch than it needs to be.