Being vaguely aware of the topics touched on in County Lines makes the realisation of the situation thousands of children find themselves in all the more shocking.
Following 14 year old Tyler (Conrad Khan) as he is lured away from his family and PRU support system by the enigmatic Simon (Harris Dickinson), things turn quickly from bad to a hell of a lot worse for not just Tyler but his family too.
That this is a typical story from director and writer Henry Blake’s real life work as a Youth Worker makes the events all the more powerful and harrowing. The performances of Toni (Ashley Madekwe) and Simon are pitch perfect as Tyler’s troubled mother and as the groomer of new kids for his illegal activities respectively. But most of the accolades must go to the performance of Conrad Khan as Tyler, starting with this awkward, isolated, slightly vulnerable but family-conscientious boy which, after exposure to this harsh way of life, very quickly changes into violent and self-possessed. Conrad handles this wide range of emotions superbly well.
County Lines’ topic by itself brings the connection to real life but it is the cinematography that really hammers home the realism.
I cannot commend this film enough for it’s efforts to educate on this very real, devastating topic but also for the overall package as a feature film. Both deliver a message which is powerful and shocking in equal measure.