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Sir Steve McQueen gives us another one of the year’s best films with Lovers Rock.
As part of his upcoming BBC/Amazon Studios anthology series Small Axe, it is part of a collection of five films that tell stories inspired by the history of London's West Indian community.
Set on a Saturday night in 1980 in west London, vibrant beauty Martha (newcomer Amarah-Jae St Aubyn) climbs down her drainpipe to unite with confident friend Patty (Shaniqua Okwok) and head off for a popular house party only a bus ride away.
Arriving at the bustling event, Martha and Patty dance before both judgemental and lustful eyes as they attempt to shed their worries and let go to the tunes of soulful songs, reggae beats and lover’s rock.
Amongst the other party guests is the smooth-talking and sharp Franklyn (BAFTA winner and Top Boy star Micheal Ward) who becomes one of the multiple suitors for Martha’s attention and thus a new love blossoms.
Amarah-Jae St Aubyn and Micheal Ward find romance in Sir Steve McQueen's Lovers Rock, part of his Small Axe anthology
(Image: Courtesy of the BBC)
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Scripted by McQueen alongside writer-musician Courttia Newland, Lovers Rock does not boast an eventful narrative but instead allows us to venture through a pulsating and rapturous celebration.
McQueen’s direction and gorgeous cinematography by Shabier Kirchner place us within the lustful grinding, tense rivalries, and adoration of music and culture, as we sway with the guests to a succession of rousing tunes towards an fiery climax.
Memorable and lengthy sequences include an energetic eruption as Carl Douglas' Kung Fu Fighting begins to play, along with a sweltering and almost spiritual reaction to Janet Kay’s achingly romantic track Silly Games.
The party erupts with soulful longing as guests sing along to Janet Kay's Silly Games
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The dangers of racism from white neighbours and sexual violence from party attendees are not absent here, with the former lingering on the sidelines and the latter providing a key moment of feminine solidarity and masculine gallantry – which also serves to solidify the blossoming love story we are witnessing.
Leading duo St Aubyn and Ward make a charming set of young lovers, negotiating their places in the politics of this night of joyous abandon, away from the hardships of the outside world and perhaps with the promise of a brighter future.
The revellers of Lovers Rock dance their worries away on a Saturday night in 1980s west London
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Capturing the euphoria of new love and the seduction of a good night out, Lovers Rock brims over with colorful nostalgia and a stylish sex drive. Sir Steve McQueen has delivered the cinematic party of the year.
Lovers Rock is an odyssey inside a sensual, soulful, and romantic house party that only further cements Sir Steve McQueen as a titan of British cinema.
Lovers Rock is showing as part of BFI London Festival 2020 and will be shown on November 27, 2020 on BBC One.
What is your favourite house party in film history? Let us know in the comments below.