Been So Long: Colourful Yet Lackluster

Source – https://variety.com/2018/film/reviews/been-so-long-review-1202987367/

Been So Long is a musical love story exploring the trials and tribulations of adulthood, family and increasing responsibility. The film follows the life of a single mother and her daughter who live in Camden.

Chewing Gum’s Michaela Coel provides and cares for her daughter, inevitably leaving little time for herself.  Straight away we see the difference in priorities between Simone, played by Michaela Coel and her best friend Mandy played by Mya Lewis.

Mandy is represented as somewhat of an opposite to Simone, with her bright blue hairstyle and fun, pleasure filled approach to life. As the sole provider for her daughter, Simone has not had an opportunity to meet new people. Excited to try something new, Simone ventures on a night out. This is where she meets Raymond, also known as The Pass’s Arinzé Kene who has just been released from prison.

The film successfully delivers on its promise to provide a colourful and happy environment. Coel and Kene work well together, encouraging the audience to root for them as a couple. The styling of the cast is cute and fitting of the genre, alongside the eye-catching and beautiful shooting locations used. Regardless, Been So Long falls short in a variety of ways including the lack of singing ability demonstrated in each performance.

Being able to sing brilliantly is not necessarily needed for musicals. However, as someone who heavily consumes music, reluctantly joined my school choir in Yr7 and has since pursued singing lessons as an adult something was just missing.

It then did not help that Gil, played by George MacKay is portrayed as an “unkempt”, struggling and homeless “hoodie” (Who has just been released from prison) seeking revenge due to his broken heart. I felt as if the serious themes explored around this character were intended to make the audience laugh, but to me felt distasteful.

The representation of the “working class criminal” is overdone and damaging. Their attempt to subvert or challenge this trope by adding something new failed. I understand that comedy often pushes boundaries in what should or should not be “made fun of”, but this was bothersome.

The producers, writers and directors were determined to make Been So Long sweet and consumable. But, not even a craving for a Black British rom-com could stop this film from failing to make a lasting impact.

The story of a single mother “getting back out there” in the dating scene is relatable, but overall ends up being very lackluster. This is disappointing considering the film’s extremely talented cast.

Been So Long is a monumental achievement for all those involved. The themes of Second Chances, Ageing, Parenthood and Gentrification were memorable, but overall I was left disappointed.

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