This is a deeply distressing, but excellent, film centering around a 14-year-old boy who becomes ensnared in the drugs trade as a county lines courier. County lines are a network of youngsters who are groomed by a local Mr Big into becoming mules, crisscrossing the land delivering packages of hard drugs to desperate addicts. We see how Tyler (Conrad Khan) an intelligent boy, who lives at home with his single-parent mum (Ashley Madekwe) and his younger sister, is courted by an unscrupulous dealer, Simon, menacingly played by Harris Dickson. Catching him truanting, Simon woos Tyler by taking him around in his flashy car, buying him trainers and an upmarket burger. Once under Simon’s control there is no going back and Tyler is indebted to his gangmaster.
Debut director Henry Blake’s experience as a mentor on an East London child referral unit fed him the storyline – all the more hard-hitting because it is based on fact. His view of the drug trade is unflinching and unsentimental; all the actors play their parts with conviction. If ever you needed to see a film to underscore the reality of the lives lived by the millions of strugglers who live on or below the poverty line in modern Britain, and why 50 years of the Misuse of Drugs Act has failed, this is it.