World Premiere at LFF 2019
The term ‘county lines’ describes the practice of using children to traffic drugs from cities to coastal towns and rural areas, an underreported fact of modern British life. Inspired by the stories he heard while mentoring kids at an East London pupil referral unit, writer-director Henry Blake’s powerful feature debut boasts a compelling central performance by Conrad Khan as 14-year-old Tyler, whose mum Toni (Ashley Madekwe) is struggling to provide for him and his sister. Excluded from school, Tyler becomes a train-bound narcotics courier for local criminal Simon, played with a calm menace by Harris Dickinson (Beach Rats, LFF 2017). County Lines depicts the ensuing cycle of debt, deceit and violent exploitation with a quiet stylistic confidence that’s all the more haunting for being so rigorously unsentimental.