Review: ‘Urban Hymn'(15)

Part of Glasgow Film Festival

Letitia Urban Hymn

Tonight having its British premiere, Michael Caton-Jones’ film is less hymn than gritty fairytale.

Set not long after the London riots in the summer of 2011, it focuses on idealistic middle-class Kate Linton (Shirley Henderson) who takes on a new job as care worker with vulnerable kids.

One day she bonds with taciturn, troubled young offender Jamie Harrison (Letitia Wright) over a shared love of vintage soul, and suggests she join her community choir.

However, Jamie’s best friend Leanne Dixon ( Isabella Laughland: fantastic,  even if her character is frustratingly one-note) is a violent crack addict who’ll stop at nothing to come between the unlikely friends.

Vividly realised (particularly the sweaty grime club nights) and also featuring a cameo from Billy Bragg, Caton-Jones touchingly reinstates the redemptive power of music.  Incredibly, Wright only learned the songs in a week, and has an absolutely gorgeous voice.

Henderson is quietly heartbreaking as self-medicating carer Kate, with her own hidden demons and deeply selfish husband David (Steven Mackintosh) stuck in a suburban prison.

But above all, it’s the beautiful and complex performance by Wright (previously so beguiling in Channel 4’s LGBT drama Banana) which elevates the film above the usual issue-based British fare.


Sure,there may be cliches and montages delivered with body-blow unsubtlety (Nick Moorcroft’s script is problematic- predictable and often a little cloying) but there’s a lot of heart. Plus,there are three brilliant central female performances- all too rare these days in contemporary British cinema..

(Lorna Irvine)


Screening at Glasgow Film Theatre on February 23rd at 10.45 am.



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