A Way of Life

A Way of Life is a 2004 British drama film directed by Amma Asante starring Stephanie James and Brenda Blethyn. It is Asante's debut film. The film portrays Leigh-Anne Williams, a teenage mother living in a dilapidated Cardiff council flat. Brenda Blethyn plays the child's paternal grandmother.

A Way of Life
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAmma Asante
Produced byPatrick Cassavetti
Peter Edwards
Written byAmma Asante
StarringBrenda Blethyn
Stephanie James
Sara Gregory
Nathan Jones
Marged Esli
Oliver Haden
Music byDavid Gray
CinematographyIan Wilson
Edited byClare Douglas
Stephen Singleton
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


Leigh-Anne Williams is still only in her late teens and has already suffered the suicide of her mother when she was a child. Both Leigh-Anne and her brother Gavin were abused by their father, and they worry about their younger sister who is in her early teens. Their father later married their mother's sister and they have a young daughter.

Leigh-Anne has had a baby daughter Rebecca, less than a year old, and is very protective toward her. The father is in prison (for an undisclosed reason.) She is visited by Annette, Rebecca's paternal grandmother, who suggests that Rebecca would be better off in her care.

Leigh-Anne has made quite a few significant enemies in her local area, a deprived part of South Wales. She is involved in constant confrontations with her Turkish Muslim neighbour Hassan Osman, and is so desperate to support her baby that she will commit shocking acts. She tricks a man out of £30 by pretending to be a pimp. She gets a younger girl (under the age of consent) to have sex with the man, who is much older.

Three of the few people who have good relationships with Leigh-Anne are her brother Gavin, and Gavin's friends Robbie and Stephen. But they are actively involved in crime and anti-social behaviour, and Leigh-Anne is a willing participant in many of their crimes. She receives regular visits from a social worker, and fears that Rebecca will be taken away from her. When Leigh-Anne sees her social worker talking with Hassan Osman, she fears that Osman is trying to get Rebecca "taken into care" by the state.

Leigh-Anne, Gavin, Robbie and Stephen are at a library one day when they come across Osman and his daughter Julie, an ex-girlfriend of Gavin. Julie's father Osman effectively ended their relationship by his disapproval. An argument starts as they leave the centre, and it turns into a full-scale street fight in which the three boys attack Osman while Leigh-Anne looks on.

After Leigh-Anne returns home, she is visited by the police, who want to question her related to an attack on Osman, he had died as a result of the beating. She leaves to go to the police station with them and sees her three friends being taken away, with Robbie still wearing the bloodstained jumper that he wore during the attack.

The last scenes show Leigh-Anne crying uncontrollably in police custody after her daughter has been transferred to Social Services. Her social worker says that no one was planning to remove her daughter, and she had been speaking to Osman about his own daughter Julie's issues. Julie tells the police that she is pregnant with Gavin's baby.


  • Stephanie James as Leigh-Anne Williams
  • Nathan Jones as Gavin Williams
  • Brenda Blethyn as Annette (surname unknown)
  • Marged Esli as a Social Worker
  • Oliver Haden as Hassan Osman
  • Sara Gregory as Julie Osman
  • Dean Wong as Stephen Rajan
  • Gary Sheppeard as Robbie Matthews
  • Nicholas McGaughey as Terry Williams
  • Amy Morgan as Karen Williams
  • Lynsey France as a Housing Officer
  • Phillip Howe as Jacob
  • Victoria Pugh as a Social Worker
  • Danielle Clare Symonds as a Barmaid


A Way of Life won the "Alfred Dunhill UK Film Talent Award" at the 2004 London Film Festival and its director won the BAFTA's "Carl Foreman Award" for a debut by a British filmmaker, as well as being named The Times Breakthrough Artist Of The Year at the 2005 South Bank Show Awards. The film also picked up the FIPRESCI Prize for Best Film at the 2005 Miami International Film Festival, and a special commendation Signis Award at the 2004 San Sebastian International Film Festival.

See also

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