Rating: 4 out of 5.

Henry Blake, in his debut as director and writer, gives us an intimate and moving portrait of a young man groomed into the drug trade.

In County Lines, we meet Tyler (Conrad Khan), who lives at home with his single mother Toni (a very good Ashley Madekwe) and his little sister Briony (Shauna Sim). Tyler is a disaffected youth in east London, and at 14 is the man of the house. His mother has a hard time making ends meet, and also has a hard time getting Tyler to open up. Tyler is just going through the motions at school, couldn’t care either way about it, nor about the men his mom brings home. But one day he meets the good-looking and sharp-dressed Simon (Harris Dickinson).

Simon offers Tyler the opportunity to make money, money much needed in his cash strapped home to pay the bills. Soon enough, Tyler gets sucked into the world of drug-running – delivering drugs and collecting money – but it all comes at a risk, not just from the authorities but from other dealers in the business as well. But Tyler gets in way too deep, but will the new trainers and extra money be worth the risk?

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Khan is just about perfect as the young man who wants to do right by his family and takes an opportunity he sees as too good to be true. Khan, a veteran of many films, including The Huntsman and The Passenger, has an amazingly expressive face. Madekwe also just about perfect as his struggling mom, while Dickinson (Beach Rats) is good as always. Director Blake pulls us into Tyler’s bleak world from the start – it’s an amazing debut from Blake – who originally created this film as a short – nominated for the Best British Short Film Award at the London Short Film Festival last year. 

County Lines is released in cinemas and digitally on BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema on 4 December