By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., Chicago Crusader
Award winning film “Urban Hymn” is a redemptive coming of age story about a wayward teen, starring Shirley Henderson (“Trainspotting,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “Marie Antoinette”), Letitia Wright (“Glasgow Girls,” “My Brother the Devil” and “Victim”), Isabella Laughland (“Now Is Good,” “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 & 2”), and Ian Hart (“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Michael Collins” and “Finding Neverland”). The film has been released today May 12th and is playing in the Chicago area exclusively at Facets Cinematheque.
“Urban Hymn” is a great film about female bonding and friendship that gets in the way of progress. Wright plays Jamie Harrison and Laughland plays Leanne Dixon. Both girls are living in a state-run group home, and they find that a new social worker named Kate Linton, played by Shirley Henderson, comes in and tries to set straight things that have been out of sorts for a while. Jamie and Leanne have been friends for a long time; Jamie had lost her mom at an early age to drug addiction, and she and Leanne have been thick as sisters while they have lived at the group home. The only problem is that Leanne is hell bent on not trying to improve her lot in life. This movie reminds me a bit of “To Sir With Love,” with Sidney Poitier, which was also set in and around London, England. Poitier tries to show the teens in that setting a half a century ago that they are worth something.
And, as well, Kate discovers that Jamie has a good voice and loves to sing and figures this could be her way to a better life—if only she can shake herself away from Leanne. Jamie is infatuated with Etta James and the old school singers, and Kate is involved in a community choir. She invites Jamie to join the choir, even though Jamie isn’t at all thrilled to be hanging out with Kate. She and Leanne deem Kate the enemy, because they are under her charge. However, soon Jamie sees that her life could be so much better, and she goes for it.
Overall “Urban Hymn” illustrates that with a little help a so-called “wayward teen” can persevere and contribute to society in positive ways. The characters in “Urban Hymn” are well developed and are convincing in their own rights. Kate has issues of her own, and her husband is not hesitant to show his displeasure with her newfound interest in Jamie. He feels that if they are in a group home and have violated the community’s trust, then they shouldn’t be shown any extra attention or care, However, Kate is committed to helping Jamie, because of her own personal tragedy.
“Urban Hymn” was written by Nick Moorcroft and directed by the multiple festival award winner Michael Caton-Jones (“Doc Hollywood,” “Rob Roy,” “The Jackal,” “City By The Sea” and “Memphis Belle”). The film won multiple awards, including the Golden Gryphon at the Griffon Film Festival, the Audience Award and Organizer’s Prize at the International Young Audience Film Festival, and was an Official Selection at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Busan International Film Festival.
“Urban Hymn” will make you shout for joy and is now playing in Los Angeles and other select cities. In Chicago, it will screen at Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. It will also be available On Demand platforms, including AT&T U-verse, Comcast, DirecTV, Spectrum, Amazon Instant, iTunes, Dish Network, Vubiquity, VUDU and others. For information, visit http://facets.org/cinematheque/films/may2017/urban-hymn.php.