Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Just Like Mohicans (1985)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

The aggressive Steve and more easily-led Si hang around London streets in boredom. At night they visit an outdoor party where black youth Barrington is rapping. They leave with Barrington - known as 'B' - and throw fireworks at a passing car before threatening its occupants. They decide, not for the first time, to rob an old lady's house.

Steve, Si and Barrington find little worth stealing in the house, and are disturbed by its occupant, Shirley. Steve holds Shirley's mouth and she bites his hand, for which he hits her. Steve's aggression motivates Barrington to intervene, and the two youths confront each other with knives. Recalling Barrington's previous willingness to chain up (needs clarifying) an old white woman, Steve wonders if he is acting now because Shirley is black. After an angry confrontation, Si and Steve leave.

Initially aggressive towards Shirley, Barrington later relents and removes her gag. He does not immediately leave, which Shirley believes may be for some deep reason, perhaps his conscience. He doubts anyone would find her if he left her tied up alone, as she has no contact. Exploring the house, Barrington wears a cap which belonged to Desmond, Shirley's husband. They talk about their families. Desmond had died only a year earlier, and Shirley's daughters Beverley and Dawn now live in the United States and Canada respectively. Shirley came to Britain on Friday 13 November 1957 from Jamaica and worked in hospital kitchens to raise her family. Barrington's mother came to England from St. Lucia but Barrington was born in London. Barrington argues that his mother worked hard but promises to immigrants resulted in little but poorly-paid work. Shirley argues that immigrants worked for their children, not for the expensive clothes and designer products that youths now covet, and attain by seeking quick money through crime.

Although he unties Shirley, Barrington follows her around her house to ensure she does not raise the alarm. Turning down drinking chocolate, Barrington asks for "rosie lee", which amuses Shirley, who calls him "Englishman!". Barrington does not speak patois, unlike his family. Shirley believes that, as a black man living in this country, he should make it his duty to find out where he comes from. He remembers numerous Uncles and Aunties, which Shirley relates to West Indian traditions.

Barrington spent six months in a detention centre for car theft, which alienated him from his father. He recalls being different at school because he never liked reggae, with its talk of the promised land, and that black kids who preferred U2 or disco faced a hard time. Black youths told him he was not black enough because he spent time with white people - Barrington thinks they should shave their heads and look like Mohicans.

Concerned by a fire engine outside dealing with a street fire, Barrington keeps Shirley away from the windows. Barrington thinks Shirley is isolated, whilst Shirley thinks Barrington's white friends may one day turn against him. She contrasts previous generations' strict parenting with those who today let their children roam without knowing where they are.

Barrington wants a job but sees little hope in education and thinks Shirley's vision of hard work and bringing up children means that she is living in a dream world: he argues that, regardless of education or effort, black people will end up in menial, low-paid work. He recalls starting school at five years old, suffering culture shock and wanting to be white.

Barrington considers leaving by the window but Shirley orders him to have respect as a black person and to leave by the front door. He does so as Shirley receives a phone call from her daughter. Outside, Barrington inspects property which, despite earlier assurances, he has stolen: Desmond's cap and cigarette case. He lights a cigarette and starts to smoke it.