Adapted by Roy Williams from his own acclaimed play, Fallout begins with the stabbing to death of young classroom star 16-year-old Kwame on a south London estate by a gang of black boys. They steal his trainers, but realising it’s not feasible to keep them, fill them with stones and chuck them in a lake, giving the murder an added futility.
DS Joe Stevens is assigned to the case, having grown up on the estate (“Poster boy,” sneers another officer). He’s both menacing and impressive, and apparently the only police officer involved who knows how to talk to these kids. His attempts to get answers out of Shanice, the girlfriend of chief suspect Emile, constantly hover on the inappropriate — but this is about exploring police frustration as much as it is shedding light on the lives of the perpetrators.
The young cast are all excellent: the boys’ surly, jeering nihilism really gets under your skin, making their vulnerable moments even more affecting. Familiar face Lennie James, as Joe, is even better, and his charged encounters with both suspects and witnesses are edge of the seat affairs.
The ending is more of a fade-out than a flourish, but anything else, you feel, would be a compromise. Williams doesn’t give us answers on a plate, but his unwavering gaze instructs us to find some for ourselves.
review by Will Parkhouse,