Obey is crafted around the 2011 London Riots in a way that explores the gentrification of London neighborhoods.
Leon (Marcus Rutherford) has been in and out of the foster care for a number of years. For Leon, his entire life seems to revolve around social workers and his drunk mother, Chelsea (T’Nia Miller). It’s because of his upbringing that he doesn’t get the opportunity to attend college. Leon’s job prospects look slim as he never went to college. He takes to the boxing gym but that’s about it. Even without the adult supervision that he’d grown accustomed to, Leon’s dreams are all but dead.
Leon and his gang of friends find themselves looking out of place at a squat rave full of middle-class white people. This includes the attractive Twiggy (Sophie Kennedy Clark), a blond girl who finds herself interested in Leon. Twiggy wakes Leon up if you will. He finds himself in love with a woman who is well out of his league.
Madness hits the streets following the shooting of Mark Duggan as their relationship blooms. Leon now finds himself in a world that’s different from what he’s known. Leon is unfamiliar with her pleasure-seeking lifestyle. This is where writer-director Jamie Jones has drawn on the 2011 London Riots to craft the film’s narrative. It’s an interesting choice to craft a love story around the riots, even if it’s a relationship that meets its demise later on when Twiggy decides to end it.
With Twiggy coming from an affluent background, what is it that makes her want to live in an abandoned squat? As Leon gets to know her, he learns that she has a boyfriend, Anton (Sam Gittens). Where Leon and Twiggy are getting along, Leon’s home life is awful with his mom’s new abusive boyfriend, Chris (James Atwell). With Chris’s abusive behavior, nobody could blame Leon for wanting to spend his time with Twiggy.
Marcus Rutherford delivers an especially strong performance as Leon. Rutherford’s performance absolutely carries the film, aided by the chemistry shared with veteran actor Sophie Kennedy Clark. There’s a lot of raw talent that Rutherford delivers in the performance. One can see where Jones pulls away in his direction of the rookie actor.
The city of London is a character in its own right. Because of the clash of characters, the city’s gentrification is evident. Despite the gentrification, the production choices on where to shoot is also a reminder of how London focused on building affordable housing after World War 2.
There are two different worlds that clash in Obey but writer-director Jamie Jones uses the social unrest to explore them.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Jamie Jones
CAST: Marcus Rutherford, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Sam Gittens, T’Nia Miller, James Atwell
An official selection of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, Obey will hold its world premiere in the International Narrative Competition.