County Lines: Film Review

County Lines

For anyone who is uninitiated, county lines is the term used to describe a criminal network in which vulnerable children are recruited by drug dealers in major cities to supply and sell drugs in towns and rural areas. It is a very real and important problem, with the recruitment of children increasing at a concerning rate, so Henry Blake‘s film County Lines is a topical and vital watch.

Written and directed by Blake based off his experiences as a youth worker, County Lines follows struggling mum Toni (Ashley Madekwe) and her 14-year-old son Tyler (Conrad Khan) who is groomed and recruited by drug dealer Simon (Harris Dickinson) into a county lines criminal network.

County Lines can be hard to watch at times but it needs to be seen so more people are aware of this exploitation of children and have a better insight into how the network operates. It is eye-opening, informative, and a lot to take in. Blake’s first-hand knowledge of the situation makes the film feel even more realistic, authentic, and powerful than it may have done in somebody else’s hands.

You would never know that this is Khan’s first major film role. His portrayal of Tyler, who is unhappy and disheartened by his hand in life, doesn’t feel like a performance, it feels like he IS Tyler. And he has some hard scenes to film that were incredibly uncomfortable to watch, so hats off to Khan for going through those. I used to watch TV series Revenge, so it was strange to see Madekwe – who played the fabulous Ashley – cast as a poor single mum who is struggling to look after herself, let alone her children, but she did a convincing job.

County Lines is a bleak and challenging watch – there is a lot of yelling and unhappiness and some violent scenes – but don’t let that put you off. A film which tells such a vital timely story deserves to be seen as a widely as possible.

In cinemas and on digital platforms including BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema from Friday 4th December

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.