Tuesday, 15 December 2015

White Girl (2008)


Unlikely to appear on Donald Trump's watch list any time soon, Abi Morgan's BAFTA winning 2008 TV film White Girl is an intense, socially realistic drama concerning a young white working glass schoolgirl's conversion to Islam. 

Anna Maxwell Martin stars as Debbie, an illiterate mother of three from Leeds who escapes her abusive drug dealing husband (Daniel Mays) one day and relocates the family to Bradford where they find themselves in a racial minority. alone in am Islamic community that is totally alien to them. It's even harder for the children who are the only three white kids in the local single faith school. At first, eldest daughter Leah (Holly Kenny) rails against this perceived injustice, demanding a Christian assembly and crying racism if this is now allowed. But when Debbie, who is a very weak character prone to drink and loneliness, slips back into bad habits and allows Stevie back into their lives, Leah - who had previously been forced into ferrying Stevie's gear around the estate for him - despairs and begins to find refuge in the religious teaching she had previously  vehemently ignored. She begins to find herself a place in the community, making friends and gaining a much needed sense of safety and calming sanctuary and community when in prayer at the local mosque. The sight of Leah wearing the hijab and praying to mecca enrages Stevie who promptly disowns her, leaving their Muslim neighbours with no option but to take Leah in. However, thanks to Leah's determined clear faith and the realisation that Stevie is now using their youngest son for his dealing, Debbie begins to realise that there is a life away from Stevie and a better one at that, one in which she can and must be a good mother to her children. 


White Girl is a bleak but rewarding film which touches upon many social issues, including race, religion and life in general for the working class of 21st-century Britain. But it is also a film about a mother and a daughter who, though at opposing points for much of the drama, are clearly trying to reach out to one another and find a balance. Ultimately the message here, beautifully played out by Maxwell Martin and the talented beyond her years Kenny, is one of love, and the film has a good degree of optimism to counterbalance some of the more heartbreaking, harrowing moments that occur within it. 


I mentioned Trump at the start of the review because of his appalling  comments this week, but really it is easy to imagine any narrow minded, opinionated oaf's negative reaction to a film like White Girl - you can almost hear the imbecilic Daily Fail cries of BBC left wing propaganda that depicts white working class Christians with faults and flaws and Islam as the answer. It's a shame that such bigots would naturally take such a manipulative stance regarding their bete noire of the Muslim faith, because the exact nature of Leah's spiritual awakening is actually, surprisingly, quite immaterial.The real message here is that of a young white girl finding and being gifted some real solace for the first time in her life away from the trauma of her situation. It just so happens to be Islam that provides that for her.


I've put it up on YouTube.

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