Lovers Rock – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Amarah-Jae St Aubyn, Micheal Ward, Shaniqua Okwok, Kedar Williams-Stirling, Ellis George
Directed by Steve McQueen
Written by Steve McQueen and Courttia Newland
Length: 70mins

The first of Steve McQueen’s ‘Small Axe’ series – an anthology of films released through the BBC at the tail end of last year – ‘Lovers Rock’ is probably the closest anyones going to get to a party for the next few months. Set in London during the early 1980’s, for the entire seventy minutes of the film’s runtime, you become completely engrossed in the celebrations as they play out on screen, feeling every change in rhythm and song.

The story’s concept is fairly simple – following a few key characters as they enjoy their night out. However, the execution is entirely different, with moments of joy and intrigue being portrayed through a wide variety of film and story devices. McQueen knows exactly when to draw back from the high intensity of the party and allow characters to have more intimate moments, before bringing the sound and movement back together in a crashing wave of energy. 

McQueen has clearly shown himself as the master of either celebrating or highlighting the stories of people of colour in cinema, particularly in his 2012 release, ‘12 Years a Slave.’ The ‘Small Axe’ series looks to further explore and celebrate black culture, and whilst this will mean delving into stories of prejudice and hatred, ‘Lovers Rock’ feels like the perfect way to begin the anthology. It’s a film of pure joy and energy, and whilst there are a few cracks that show moments of bigotry and hate, for almost the entire runtime the viewer is drawn into a world of celebration. 

Everything in this film works to immerse the viewer in the party that’s taking place, with the camera gliding effortlessly from one character to the next, and the soundtrack playing one great song after another. Despite there not being too much time for overt character development, you still feel engaged in the stories of those at the party, with particular traits being shown within different people, allowing the story to feel believable throughout and preventing the audience from ever feeling as if the energy of the party has lost its momentum.

Overall, I would definitely recommend ‘Lovers Rock’ to anyone looking for something to watch. With its short runtime and joyful, high-energy story making it less of a film and more of a party in your living room – exactly the kind of thing that’s needed during a global lockdown.  

Let Him Go – Review

Rated: 15 Cast: Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Kayli Carter, Lesley Manville and Will Brittain Directed by Thomas Bezucha Written by Larry Watson (Novel) and Thomas Bezucha (screenplay) Length: 113mins

While for the majority of 2020 the cinemas were shut and films weren’t being released, a few films crept out to market during the short periods of time that they could hit the big screen. Thomas Bezucha’s Let Him Go was released towards the end of the year and, despite the draw of Kevin Costner, went widely unnoticed. A story of a retired sheriff and his wife, filled with grief after losing their son, journey through the emotional tug of whether they’re prepared to let their grandson go once their daughter in-law remarries. 

It was such an odd time of year to release this movie, while any cinemas that were open were showing festive reruns and Christmas classics it’s such a contrast to throw Let Him Go into the mix. I don’t pretend to know the complexities of getting a feature released, especially during 2020, but this just seemed like a very unusual choice. Though I’m supportive of any production company prepared to release films despite the financial implications of a pandemic in an attempt help keep the industry afloat, I fear the timing may have done this film more harm than good. 

The plot is solid, it’s peaks an interest with several possibilities of where it could go. However there was a turning point for me about two thirds in – to avoid spoilers I wont discuss it in detail but I felt like there was a moment of high emotion, the build of anticipation was brilliant, but then a choice that changed the trajectory of the plot ruined it for me. I feel like some choices to shock the audience can detract from any work of building tension, then the final third seemed unrealistic and a bit ridiculous. 

That being said, the cast of this film were faultless. I don’t say that lightly but every single character had depth and weaved through stereotypes in a way that delivered the desired effect upon it’s audiences while still creating a unique persona. While Kevin Costner was unsurprisingly brilliant and Lesley Manville created this quietly terrifying villain it was Diane Lane who shone. She was phenomenal, I love to see a flawed character that still manages to get the audience on side and can share her characters emotional journey throughout each moment of the film. 

Unfortunately, for me this film was a heavy, dark piece that was released at the wrong time of year and shot off in a direction that destroyed my interest by a choice meant to shock. It’s arguably worth watching for the character depictions, but other than that I don’t feel that it will particularly entertain, provoke thought or change the lives of it’s audiences.