Henry Blake’s County Lines
County Lines tells the story of a vulnerable 14-year-old child who becomes manipulated into drug trafficking. At times a difficult watch, due to the horrific violence inflicted upon exploited children, the film provides a powerful message.
The film concludes with a shocking statistic. Up to 10,000 children as young as eleven are involved in County Lines across the UK. For those who aren’t familiar with the term (I wasn’t), County Lines is the name given to drug dealing where organised criminal groups use phone lines to move and supply drugs, typically from cities into more rural areas.
The vulnerable child in the film, Tyler (brilliantly portrayed by Conrad Khan), is first lured into dealing drugs to help provide for his family. His mother, Toni (Ashley Madekwe) works nights as a cleaner. So, Tyler frequently looks after his younger sister Aliyah (Tabitha Milne-Price). However, soon Tyler finds himself deeply embroiled in the criminal network that is exploiting him.
In one scene, Tyler is picked up by Simon (Harris Dickinson), who recruited Tyler into drug trafficking. In the background, lights shine from a nearby football pitch where Tyler once played. It serves as a stark reminder of the childhood that has been taken from him by those who would exploit vulnerable kids. Rather than playing footie with his friends and picking his little sister up from school, Tyler’s world centres around crack houses and witnessing addicts being beaten up.
Interestingly before writer-director Henry Blake made County Lines, his debut feature, he made a short based on the same premise. The feature, which premiered at the 2019 BFI London Film Festival, is not, as mentioned earlier, an easy watch. But what it offers is a hard-hitting and emotive lens on an issue that is affecting thousands of children in our society. It is, quite simply, unmissable.
County Lines has been nominated for four British Independent Film Awards, with Henry Blake and lead actor Conrad Khan both receiving nominations.
County Lines is now available to watch on BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema.
We will be announcing some exciting news relating to County Lines soon!