Five years after helming urban Brit hit “Kidulthood,” Menhaj Huda returns with “Everywhere & Nowhere,” exploring what it means to be young and Asian in contempo London. Huda’s first produced screenplay (co-written with Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti) sees the Bangladesh-born filmmaker venture into more personal terrain with a coming-of-ager about a young man caught between family expectation and individual fulfillment. Pic’s earnest tone and specific Asian focus will hamper its chances of drawing the young, ethnically diverse local auds who flocked to “Kidulthood” and sequel “Adulthood,” but this conflicted-identity tale may prove easier to export, especially to the large Asian diaspora.
Ash (James Floyd) is a handsome 20-year-old who lives with his sister and much older, domineering brother Ahmed (Alyy Khan). Ahmed is vexed at his aimless sibling’s desire to drop out of college, and punishes him by assigning him duties at the family convenience store. Ash aspires to be a nightclub DJ, and he gets his shot thanks to the patronage of turntable king Ronnie (Simon Webbe), who’s dating Ash’s sister Sairah (Shivani Ghai).
Pic spends much of its running time hanging with Ash and his three buddies: charismatic womanizer Jaz (Elyes Gabel), joker Zaf (Adam Deacon) and baby-faced Riz (Neet Mohan). Each is awarded an individual drama, variously involving an arranged marriage, a sick parent and extremist leaflets found in the trunk of a car. Humor arrives courtesy of Riz’s inept pick-up lines (“Have you ever been to Brent Cross?”), and white girl Mandy (Sophie Berenice), whose desperate quest for Jaz (“I’m learning Urdu!”) renders her a figure of fun.
However, Ash’s angst is the intended focus of “Everywhere & Nowhere,” as he works toward mustering the courage to stand up to Ahmed. Events climax at a family dinner during which Ash chooses to reveal his Swedish girlfriend, Bella (Katia Winter), prompting petulantly spilled further disclosures. Huda orchestrates the scene for maximum melodrama but it’s conventional fare, and only confirms Ash still has plenty of growing up to do. Overall, the protag’s arc is credible, but flimsy.
On the plus side, characters are more relatable than the privileged idlers in Islamabad-set “Slackistan,” on which Huda served as exec producer. On the negative, it’s very much a boys’ affair. One female character is revealed to be self-harming, and then virtually abandoned. The more developed Sairah, never able to tell her family about her black boyfriend, also feels shortchanged by the screenplay.
The color-saturated widescreen lensing of veteran d.p. Brian Tufano (“Trainspotting,” “Billy Elliot”) handily saves the film from dingy introspection. Song-peppered soundtrack, including platinum-selling crossover artist Plan B, signals wider commercial ambitions.