I’m obsessed with Michaela Coel so it was a no-brainer to choose this film. And there’s been a lot of horror and emotion the last few weeks so it’s nice to focus on something a little less dramatic. Been So Long is an adaptation of a musical play of the same name and although it still covers serious subject matter, it’s set against a joyous Camden backdrop (probably where I would live if I lived in London) and it’s very sweet.
While its director isn’t Black, she is a woman of colour and while the screenplay was written by a white man – Che Walker – the film does boast an almost entirely Black cast so I’ve fit it into our Films by Black Filmmakers category, frankly because it belongs there.
I don’t know about you but sometimes on the weekend, all I want to do is watch things that make me smile and snack, so this was a good fit.
Been So Long (2018)
A dedicated single mother who, on an unusual night on the town, is charmed by a handsome yet troubled stranger.
Simone (Queen Coel) is a single-mum who lives alone with her disabled daughter Mandy (Lewis). Her best friend Yvonne (Ronke Adekoluejo) is keen to get her out on the town as she hasn’t had any action “since MySpace” but Simone is reluctant. Wholesome mothering is all she’s interested in, thankyouverymuch. Luckily, Yvonne prevails this night via the power of song – which contains a verse about sitting on someone’s face – and it’s a good thing really because at the bar she meets Raymond (Kene).
Fresh out of prison for a non-violent crime, Raymond is slowly settling back into outside life. Back home with his mum and doing a job he’s not particularly proud of, Raymond is ready to rebuild his life. When he meets Simone, it seems this could be possible. So it’s a shame when she sees through his cover story and, after she makes an insensitive comment about his prison experience, he ends their first meeting prematurely.
Fate takes care of their situation though when the pair end up unwittingly sitting next to each other on the same bus home. They exchange numbers and Simone seriously considers the possibility of letting a new man into hers and her daughter’s life. If he can convince her he’s good to his mother and respects women.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Raymond, he is being stalked by a knife-wielding white boy – and the father of Simone’s daughter is back on the scene, and keen on establishing a relationship with her.
Can Simone open her heart enough to let love in? Is Raymond the decent bloke he seems to be? And what does the kid from 1917 (George MacKay) want with Raymond?
If this review seems a little light on the ground I guess it’s because honestly, the movie’s pretty light on action. It’s sweet enough but there are a lot of side stories going on that make it messy and took me out of the main story.
We’re I’m here for the brilliant wit of Michaela Coel – maybe a few upbeat ditties and some strong female support in the shape of Yvonne and we do get some of that but not nearly enough.
I didn’t really follow George MacKay’s arc because it starts dramatically and then never goes anywhere. He’s got beef with Raymond over a girl he’s secretly in love with but it’s never made clear what her relationship was to Raymond and why George is so murderously against him. Likewise, there’s an unwanted pregnancy story for Yvonne that seems to be tacked on just to give her something to do during a period of not speaking to Simone. Oh, and there’s also some comment on gentrification when their friend Barney’s (Luke Norris) inherited bar is threatened with closure.
I can just about stomach the Mandy’s father story line as it explains a few things about why Simone is so protective but it’s not particularly exciting. It would also be remiss not to mention the songs. They’re all pretty forgettable and not really for me. That said, Ms Coel has a banging voice and once again proves there’s nothing she can’t do. If anyone’s seen recent series I May Destroy You then they’ll already be aware of that.
I don’t want this to be a MC appreciation post but I feel very strongly that she – and Adekoluejo who plays Yvonne – are the strongest links here and all I wanted to see. They’re kind of wasted in a mediocre landscape which is admittedly attractive and vibrant but never really takes flight.