Review by Dan Skip Allen
Lovers Rock is the second film in the Small Axe series from Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave, Widows). All of these stories including this one are about the West Indies section of London. Like Mangrove before it, Lovers Rock is a period piece set in the 1980s. This island culture explodes on the screen in vivid reality.
This film focuses on a group of men and women who all attend a house party that eventually turns violent. Relationships form and the sounds of Bob Marley and the like are flowing from the speakers of the sound system. Martha (Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn) and Franklyn (Michael Ward) are the main characters. A few of their friends also play a significant role in the film. Patty (Shaniqua Okwok), Cynthia (Ellis George), Clifton (Kedar Williams-Stirling), Reggie (Francis Lovehall), and Hammy (Daniel Francis-Swaby) all have interaction with the two main characters throughout the film.
Like Mangrove, McQueen captures the feel and aesthetics of the 1980s perfectly. The clothes and hairstyles are spot-on for this decade. The reggae music sets a tone for this film. These songs are synonymous with the West Indies culture in London or anywhere else for that matter. The setting of the house party really gives the audience a chance to get to know these characters. Otherwise, they would be strange to anyone watching. That's a good job by McQueen and the writers.
McQueen keeps the camera moving like it was dancing along to all the music he has set at the forefront of this film. As the characters move around we start to see their motivations and character development before our eyes. This party is a respite from their hard lives in London. It only takes them away from the truth of who they are for a little while. Their truths are always permeating the surface just waiting to explode and overflow. As this happens, the film revs up along with the music and dancing. Things start to heat up!
Romance can pop up at any time in life and you have to seize the opportunity when it arises. Even though this romance is a short one, the viewer can feel the love between the two main characters. McQueen guides the viewers through this little moment in 1980's London with grace and the terrific sounds of island music. This anthology has tapped into some interesting aspects of the West Indies culture in London so far. I can't wait to see what aspect he explores next.
Lovers Rock is now streaming on Amazon Prime. New installments of Small Axe release on Fridays.