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A Way of Life

Year of release: 2004

Directed by: Amma Asante

United Kingdom

South Wales, the present. Teenage single mother Leigh-Anne Williams lives in a council flat with her baby Rebecca. Her brother Gavin and their friends Stephen and Robbie store stolen goods there. She is not popular with her neighbours, especially the Turkish-born Hassan Osman, who lives with his daughter Julie.

Rebecca's paternal grandmother Annette visits Leigh-Anne to see how they're coping. Rebecca has eczema and wheezes a lot. Annette says that it's because the environment is unsuitable for her and offers to help. Leigh-Anne angrily rebuffs her. Later, she asks Gavin to steal a fridge for her. In the pub, Leigh-Anne is propositioned by a man. She persuades a much younger girl to have sex with him in the park, and pockets the money. At his care home, Stephen discusses his plans to change his surname from Rajan to the more Welsh-sounding Hughes, as he feels he has no connection with his father.Leigh-Anne visits her cousin Karen. Leigh-Anne's father (who married her aunt Brenda after her mother's suicide) arrives shortly afterwards, catches Leigh-Anne stealing, and throws her out. Later, Leigh-Anne watches some affectionate horseplay between Hassan and Julie in the street. Jealous, she scratches the side of his van with a key.

Gavin, Robbie and Stephen deliver the promised fridge, which still has food in it. Hassan accuses them of vandalising his van. Leigh-Anne tells him to show a bit of respect in someone else's country. Hassan points out that he has been resident in Wales for thirty years, and wonders whether she can say the same. Leigh-Anne, Gavin, Robbie and Stephen sit by the river and ponder their future. They blame their troubles on immigrants, whom they call 'Pakis' regardless of nationality. After a visit from her social worker, Leigh-Anne sees her talking to Hassan outside his house. She accuses Annette of reporting her. Annette denies it, but repeats that Rebecca is clearly sick and that she cannot continue living like that. Gavin begins a romance with Julie. Robbie is offered a job interview at an old people's home. Leigh-Anne and Stephen have sex for the sake of it, to Robbie's consternation. He takes Rebecca for a walk in the fresh air, returning to find Leigh-Anne furious. Robbie's interview goes well, until he reveals where he lives. The woman claims that the commute makes shift work impossible. Leigh-Anne finds that someone has written 'PIMP' on her door. Correctly suspecting Julie, she challenges her, during which she inadvertently admits that the accusation has some merit. Leigh-Anne visits the council to apply for rehousing, but refuses to fill in a form. Gavin shows Julie the squat that he shares with Robbie. He reminisces about his family situation: after his mother's suicide, his father married her sister, and beat Gavin and Leigh-Anne up regularly. Gavin and Julie end up making love. Rebecca drips hot candle wax on her arm, but Leigh-Anne bandages it herself. Annette notices the bandage, but Leigh-Anne refuses to give details. Hassan catches Gavin and Julie kissing in the street and orders Julie to come home with him. Gavin racially abuses him. Leigh-Anne sees Hassan talking to her social worker again. Panic-stricken, she takes Rebecca to hospital, where she discovers that the burn has become infected. She is put in an oxygen mask, but when the doctor says that she should stay a few days as a precaution (she's on the at-risk register), Leigh-Anne removes her. Leigh-Anne tells Gavin, Robbie and Stephen that Hassan informed on her to the social worker. They stop at the library to use the baby changing facilities. Emerging, Leigh-Anne sees that Hassan and Julie, and points them out to the others. They follow them and beat Hassan up severely, in front of a horrified Julie. Leigh-Anne is woken by the police, who tell her that Hassan died in hospital. She and the others are arrested. Another officer goes to tell Julie the news, and hears that she's pregnant by Gavin. In the police station, Leigh-Anne justifies her actions by saying that Hassan informed on her. Her social worker denies this, saying that she's Julie's social worker too, and they only discussed her case. Rebecca is taken away, leaving Leigh-Anne to sob uncontrollably.

Synopsis from BFI Screenonline

See also Peter Bradshaw's review in The Guardian and an interview with Amma Asante on BBC films


Internet Movie Database

Filed under: Black British | Crime | Mothers

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