A single evening at a house party in 1980s West London sets the scene, developing intertwined relationships against a background of violence, romance and music.
‘Lovers Rock’, the second film in Steve McQueen’s ‘Small Axe’ series is the first in the series where the blurred nature of what ‘Small Axe’ is doing in terms of straddling TV and cinema really comes to the fore. This is a 70 minute drama, taking place almost entirely at a party, with many scenes purely of the partygoers dancing and enjoying the music. There are micro plots scattered throughout, mainly following Martha (Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn) as she navigates the environment of a reggae house party in the 1980s in West London, and it makes for an intoxicating experience.
Some of the scenes are just pure joy and it’s probably the first example of McQueen really letting loose. To this point his films have generally been about challenging subjects and they’ve been tough to watch to say the least given films like ‘12 Years a Slave’ and ‘Hunger’ are in his resume. That’s not to say there aren’t darker moments here, including scenes of sexual assault and racism that occur throughout the film, but they are overwhelmed by the moments when ‘Lovers Rock’ really shines, finding small, personal moments amidst the dancing and everyone enjoying themselves.
That’s never more apparent than in Martha’s story, which starts to segue into a ‘Before Sunrise’ esque story of two individuals who find one another at a party, and I absolutely loved how the film covered her arc throughout the film. ‘Lovers Rock’ captures the joys, the anxiety and the bad elements that can come when so many people are thrown into a small space with music, alcohol, and everyone arriving with different aims for the evening. I thought it was superb frankly – an original take and I thought this was even better than ‘Mangrove’, granted it’s comparing apples with oranges here!
Directed By: Steve McQueen
Starring: Micheal Ward, Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn, Kedar Williams-Stirling, Shaniqua Okwok, Ellis George, Francis Lovehall, Daniel Francis-Swaby, Alexander James-Blake, Kadeem Ramsay, Romario Simpson, Jermaine Freeman, Marcus Fraser, Saffron Coomber, Frankie Fox and Dennis Bovell