pirate is an hour and twenty minutes of glorious nostalgia for a bygone era, free from smartphones and social media influencers. It celebrates music, friendship and the unparalleled jubilation of youth seen through the eyes of three north London friends at the dawn of the new millennium. Driven by a bass-heavy contemporary garage soundtrack, Elliot Edusah, Jordan Peters and Reda Elazouar personify that teenage exuberance.
Written and directed by British film actor and TV presenter Reggie Yates, who is best known for his various BBC documentaries, this concise semi-autobiographical experience is engaging. As Cappo (Edusah), Two Tonne (Peters) and Kidda (Elazour) respectively, audiences follow our eponymous leads into the depths of a 1990s subculture that feels fresh and exciting. Era-specific touchstones include old cellphone technology, Tamagotchis, and a refreshing lack of modern conveniences.
Their conversations are defined by a unique use of MLE (Multicultural London English), giving these characters crucial specificity. This authenticity is part of the charm of watching pirateas these three characters interact with each other and their wider community in ways that today’s teenagers might consider old-fashioned.
What also becomes apparent is just how adept this writer-director is behind the camera. There is an assurance in his staging that allows these actors to really inhabit this time and this place. The dialogue feels improvised, the slang flows without seeming forced, and the narrative feels organic. The comedic moments are also well-timed with the rest of the play, while of the three lead actors, Elazouar stands out effortlessly.
Just like John Boyega was the shining ensemble star in Joe Wright Attack the block, just like Elazouar in this film. This does not mean that his accomplices are devoid of merit, but if pirate makes a star out of anyone, it’s likely to be him. It displays a lightness with the material, but can also deliver a more serious subtlety. Among the plethora of charismatic support players, there are also standouts like the Princess of Shiloh Coke.
In a scene that revolves around food and the specific pronunciation of a word, Coke really hits a home run by stealing it under the young leads. Through a combination of facial expressions and split-second timing, this simple exchange quickly turns into a showcase for the young actress. As one of many steps on their way to this final celebration, this exchange stands out specifically for its contribution.
Elsewhere, Yates delves into some of what you’ve seen before, as scorned girlfriends, old flames and aggravated circumstantial farce escalate events for the sake of narrative momentum. Things disappear or are forgotten, people disappear or separate completely. Meanwhile, our main trio have expected fights, before experiencing epiphanies and coming together to reconcile, none of which are hugely surprising. Yet, under this writer-director, the use of these conventions still feels serious.
In many ways, pirate feels like a love letter to north London circa 1999. As that love and sense of possibility radiates off screen and audiences are drawn into the evening, it is no longer about that final destination. Instead, the film celebrates a unique moment in history.
In a world where everything is hyperconnected, pirate seeks to revel in a simpler time when neighborhoods were worlds unto themselves. This revelation is something he achieves with flair and space to spare, as a writer-director in his own right is about to make his mark.