Rising Above: Our Review of ‘Urban Hymn’

Posted in Movies, VOD/iTunes/DigitalDownload by - May 17, 2017
Rising Above: Our Review of ‘Urban Hymn’

Sometimes you just have to rise above the material as Urban Hymn is an enjoyable but predictable film that succeeds quite often in spite of itself.

A girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Jamie Harrison (strongly acted by Letitia Wright, whose Hollywood star is most definitely on the rise with upcoming roles in Marvel’s Black Panther and Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One) has the cards stacked against her.  Her mother has passed away due to a heroin overdose and the rest of her childhood is spent in a council home where love and empathy aren’t welcome, while anger and isolation flourish. Kate Linton (played by the always enjoyable Shirley Henderson), is a social worker who feels connected to Jamie and is keen to take up the challenge of showing Jamie that she still has potential and can use her voice as a vehicle to better herself and her situation. Both women are dealing with emotional scars left behind after the loss of a loved one and deal with their issues through anger and their mutual love of music.

Jamie always seems to find herself in trouble, primarily because of her close friendship with Leanne. Leanne is a teenager more troubled and angry than Jamie, who is only able to release her anger through sex, drugs and violence.

The film opens against the backdrop of the London riots of 2011 (a result of the police shooting death of Mark Duggan) where Jamie, Leanne and their friends partake in the vandalizing of the city, documenting their antics with a home video camera. The anger, violence and chaos depicted in those opening scenes correlate directly with director Michael Caton-Jones’ portrayal of the modern British council foster system. It isn’t until new social worker Kate arrives at the council home and challenges her apathetic and jaded peers that the system is shown in a more positive light.  It is in foster care that Kate meets Jamie and they set off on their mutual journey of healing and self-discovery.

With Kate’s parental interest and care, Jamie develops from sullen orphan to musical ingénue. She joins Kate’s community choir and is offered a tryout for a prestigious music college, an opportunity to leave her haunted past and forge a positive path for herself in this world.

As typical to the genre, Jamie is reeled back in to her life of crime through her loyalty and friendship with Leanne and both girls are sent to jail as punishment for their actions.  Not one to give up, Kate does everything in her power to ensure that Jamie has the means necessary to try out for the college upon her release from jail.

With Jamie continuing to grow and her increasing closeness with Kate, Leanne’s jealousy becomes overwhelming.  It is her wrathful actions that ultimately alter the course of all of their lives.

While Caton-Jones’s story is predictable the actors do lift the story to truly enjoyable levels.  Wright brings a thoughtful vulnerability to her role as Jamie.  She delivers a performance that handles the confusion, anger and volatility of her emotions while ably portraying the hope and joy her music and personal growth brings her way.

Shirley Henderson is wonderful, as always as the grieving and emotionally damaged Kate, but it is Isabella Laughland that steals the show as the troubled and indignant Leanne.  Even as you watch her fiery descent into her own personal hell, Laughland manages to make you wish things were different for her character.

The music, especially the use of the choir’s songs, manages to be as peaceful an outlet for the viewer as it is for Jamie, removing us from the depression of the foster home experience and lighting a more hopeful future with their eerie notes.

Unfortunately, the dialogue written by Nick Moorcroft is rather rote, the conversations between Kate and her husband especially so, which dampens the picture as a whole.

While the film’s plot is unoriginal, fans of the genre will enjoy this depiction of ‘girl makes good’ while suffering seemingly insurmountable odds.  It is frustrating to see yet another movie that suggests that talent alone can help someone escape a harsh reality, but hope springs eternal for those looking for a feel good story with a little dose of reality mixed in.

Urban Hymn is now available on iTunes and most VOD Platforms.

This post was written by
Sarah has had a love affair the silver screen her entire life. Movies have always found a way to impact her life and she has always connected with the magic it has to offer. With a BA in Honours English Language and Literature, Sarah enjoys translating that magic, and sometimes the lack thereof, to the written word. Sarah is a stay at home mom with newborn twin boys and looks forward to the days where she can share her love of film with them. She counts The Last of the Mohicans, The Lord of the Rings -The Two Towers, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Army of Darkness, Goodfellas, Jaws and It's a Wonderful Life as some of her favourites.