Obey is the directorial feature debut of award-winning director and writer Jamie Jones. Starring newcomer Marcus Rutherford in his first film role, the story follows Leon who is stuck in a difficult situation trying to take care of his alcoholic mother, adjusting to adult life after being in and out of foster care, and dealing with a lack of education and financial stability. As riots are taking off in the streets between police and protestors, Leon has a choice to make between joining his friends to protest or starting a new life with rebellious, bohemian squatter Twiggy, played by Sophie Kennedy Clark. Inspired by the chaos of the real-life 2011 London Riots, the film continues to address the themes that Jones has explored in his past film work: the connection between poverty and violence and how people are often pushed to extremes because of these issues.
Watch my interview with Obey actor Marcus Rutherford, below:
What really makes British film Obey stand out is how relevant the movie is to a worldwide audience, especially with the issues going on in America today causing young people to stand up to protest in support of black lives, gun control, LGBTQ+ rights, and more. “The movie is so unbelievably relevant right now,” actress Sophie Kennedy Clark told me on the Obey red carpet. “It shows youth culture in London and the reason why the riots happened in a gritty and honest way. It was such a special film right from the get-go.”
Not only is there a connection between the London Riots and what’s going on in America, but many of the actors involved in this film had personal connections or stories about the real-life riots themselves. This was a time that they actually lived through. “I was living in East London when the riots happened. I know people that ended up being a part of them or people’s brothers and sisters,” Clark said. “It really took hold of London. It’s amazing to me that no one’s really shone a light on it since. It’s almost like there’s this great shame around it and the great thing about the film is it doesn’t point the finger and say whoever was a part of the riot’s is a bad person. They were unheard and oppression usually leads people to that kind of thing.”
Watch my interview with Obey actress Sophie Kennedy Clark, below:
“Obey is a film about subcultures of a certain generation in London: squatters, lower class, young people. What attracted me to it was because it was telling the story of something that happened where I live, to people I know,” actor Sam Gittins told me. “It’s an honest portrayal of that time in London.”
Clark spoke more about her character Twiggy, who plays a beautiful squatter who actually comes from a more affluent background, and how that lifestyle is very real in London. “She is far more middle class but it’s very fashionable to live in a squat when you don’t need to. It’s that bohemian dream and it’s a real thing in London,” she told me. “A lot of people live in squats that don’t need to. It’s that whole lifestyle that they get drawn into.”
Twiggy realizes that she doesn’t need to be a part of the riots when they escalate, but Clark says that she never thought Twiggy was a bad person for going home when the going gets tough. “Playing her was so interesting. I know people a bit like Twiggy and when things went bad she just goes back home,” she explained. “She doesn’t have to pay for the consequences, she doesn’t fight that cause. She just leaves because she has security. The people that were caught amongst it they didn’t have anywhere to go. I never saw her as Machiavellian, I never saw her as a bad person. Because of her background she didn’t have to deal with it.”
Gittins shared what the title of the film Obey meant to him. “For me, I think it’s a representation of what’s driving different forces in the film,” he said. “The establishment wants young people to obey and young people want to do the opposite.”
Watch my interview with Obey actor Sam Gittins, below:
Director and writer Jamie Jones perfectly captures one of the most violent times of social unrest in London’s history within the fictional story of Obey in a true, fearless, and eye-opening way. “This film is so honest and so truthful. For Jamie [Jones] to have written a film about my generation. It was just so incredible for him to have written this piece that we all felt so connected to,” said Clark.
England has often been viewed with rose-colored glasses, but Clark hopes the film helps people see the true realities of life in London. “It paints an amazing picture of the youth culture and all the subcultures that are kind of an amalgamation of what London is,” she said. “Especially in America, I don’t know if you guys have ever seen that side of East London before. You get that royalty thing and all [that], but this is the real stuff. This is what’s going on.”