In Street Flow, directors Kery James and Leila Sy tried to sketch out a portrait of a black immigrant family, where three brothers tried to find their footing in modern-day France. The film was essentially a somber portrayal of the impact of gang violence and how racial prejudice and socio-political systems have adverse effects on minorities and don’t work toward ameliorating the issues. Kery James, who starred in the film as well, is back again with Street Flow 2, handing over the directorial reins to Leila Sy this time around. There were some obvious questions left unanswered at the end of the previous movie, and it behooved this film to resolve those ones first. But this film, apart from doing the obvious, has given itself a bigger canvas this time to create a larger portrait of the Traore brothers. This time, there is the issue of finding their roots and overcoming the hurdles that come up when the brothers try to follow the righteous path.
Street Flow 2 is less interested in throwing you off with a violent saga and is more inclined to make you spend time with the three characters. Demba, the eldest, who was shot at the end of the previous film, has become a businessman in this one. Soulaymaan had graduated as a lawyer, and this one shows him as a working man, hustling his way to the top. The most emotional and dramatic storyline, in my opinion, belongs to the youngest Noumouke. In the original film, he was shown to be simply following in Demba’s footsteps, but the sequel improves upon the emotional core of his character. The film makes him a complex character who is deeply affected by the absence of his father. The other two brothers seemed to have some experience with him, but it was Noumouke who had little to no interaction with his father. That scarred him emotionally, and his actions could be seen as a byproduct of this emotional void.
The plot of Street Flow 2 was seamlessly tied to the original, with lots of interesting elements thrown in the mix. The story begins two years after the events of the original film, and we see Noumouke getting out of jail. This was a nice technique to keep us curious about what happened in those two years. The reason behind it adds to the dynamic between Soulaymaan and Noumouke and asks us to ponder over the courage that a violent temper gives us. Street Flow 2 wants to play in the gray, and writer Kery James knows how not to box characters in shades of black and white. Apart from the three brothers, there was Abdel, who had assisted Sahli in shooting Demba. His motivations too are kept ambiguous. Demba had to first get this information and then decide how to go about it.
Leaving the plot aside, the other thing that’s intriguing is the risk this film takes by moving the setting to a rural site, showing us the Traore roots in Mali. It has some great shots, and the peace and quiet are captured beautifully during those sequences. The yellowish color palette was nicely contrasted by a bluish one in the French setting. There was a moment where I felt that the film lost its balance between what to focus on and what to show in montages. But then, this film always promised to move in a direction where the plot wasn’t really paramount. It was an attempt to bring you into the brothers’ emotional world and empathize with them. The politics of the film came right at the end, with real incidents regarding police brutality and racial prejudice being brought to the forefront. This is where films like these have to be a little careful. Real events are too jarring to fit so randomly in the film’s universe. On the one hand, they really lend the film some more gravity, but on the other hand, they break the flow of the story. The subsequent scenes seem to lose their importance a bit as the mind keeps lingering on the real events.
The filmmaking in this film is much more flamboyant than the original. The camera glides in some of the scenes, reminding us that times have changed and perhaps the Traore family might now have a smooth life. The performances in the film retain their innocence, which makes it easy to empathize with the characters. The romantic angle seemed to be a financial decision more than a truly necessary one. The last one had us follow the budding romance between Souleymaan and Lisa. This one has us seeing Demba involved in traditional wooing sequences. Kery James is aware of the need to not miss out on the religious consciousness of the characters. The topic of wearing a hijab, for example, in a country like France and dealing with the consequences was a conscious choice.
One of the most touching parts of the film is its music. The film has hip-hop, classical piano, and a great background score, coming at just the right time to highlight the emotion and heighten even the mundane reality of the characters. But the music seems to be in places where it wasn’t warranted. There is a negative impact of this habit as well. In some places, silence was required, which was not given scope to blossom and was taken over by the score. Music does help, but the makers have to realize the power of silence as well. Street Flow 2” is a worthy sequel to the 2019 film. It continues the episodes involving the three brothers, and it doesn’t feel like there is a convoluted element added into the mix just to make things interesting.
The simplicity of the film is what might disappoint some who might have been expecting a more violent film filled with police chase and murder plots. The film does have violence, and it’s one of the major themes of the film, but the film’s attempt to tell the story and achieve a universal sentiment of brotherhood are what stand out. It resists the temptation to be overly flashy and compromise with the characters’ emotional journey. Street Flow 2 has to be seen as a drama first, with the crime and violence being just the reality that the characters deal with. At the end of the film, you might know who the Traore family truly is and drop all your preconceived notions, which seemed to be the paramount objective of this film.