Beats

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Beats is the tale of an unlikely friendship circa 1994. Johnno (Cristian Ortega) is a timid, dark-haired middle-class teen. His relatively stable background includes a single mom (Laura Fraser) and her boyfriend (Brian Ferguson) who is a policeman. Spanner (Lorn Macdonald) is his fair-skinned unpredictable best mate that is far less privileged. He’s apparently without any parental supervision living in a spartan flat with his abusive older brother Fido (Neil Leiper). Scotland is currently undergoing radical socio-political change set against the backdrop of the 1990s UK rave scene. The establishment has deemed unlicensed parties as “anti-social.” These feelings had culminated with the chaos surrounding the Castlemorton Common Festival in 1992 which led to The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act in 1994. The restrictive law attempts to ban gatherings with music characterized by “repetitive beats”.

It’s the mid-90s and the boys are all but consumed by the rave culture that has captivated the local adolescents. A local radio DJ (Ross Mann) helps fuel the revolution with his pirate radio show. He rebels against oppressive laws by encouraging his listeners to congregate at an enormous outdoor party at a secret location. Johnno’s exasperated mother Alison means well but she doesn’t relate with her son on a personal level. Her relationship with Robert only makes matters worse. The man has essentially become a stepfather to the boy. Johnno’s family are searching for a better life. They will be moving away and taking Johnno from the old neighborhood in about a week. He’s not happy about it. The upcoming underground rave is more than just another party. This will be the last time he will ever get to hang out with his friend. The party is a simple destination but the journey to get there will prove to be a little more difficult than they think.

Beats is a touching saga of an enduring friendship. These two disparate characters both live in a small town in central Scotland. Other than location, it’s not initially clear why Johnno and Spanner are buds. It turns out they’re unified by their love of electronic dance music. They also share a tortured relationship with their respective families. These outcasts support each other in a way they do not receive at home. Their connection is deep and overflowing with heart. Coming of age tales are nothing new. Beats may appear to be another teenage rebellion film but this transcends the genre. The raw, unfiltered portrait of Scottish youth is beautifully captured with such authenticity. Scottish teens do indeed speak English. However, their dialect is filled with enough slang and colloquialisms that it occasionally sounds like a different language. I suggest you watch with captions. It isn’t required though. It’s a fundamentally simple story that creates a mighty feeling.

This is a compelling exploration of freedom, social class, the UK dance subculture, and an undying devotion between two close pals. Director Brian Welsh and co-writer Kieran Hurley (who adapted his own play) emphasizes this rapport which affords the movie a poignancy. This fact this 90s set bildungsroman is filmed in black and white gives it a feeling of nostalgia. It all culminates on the dance floor at the rave — an egalitarian event that is an uniter of souls. The soundtrack features Human Resource, LFO, Inner City, N-Joi, Leftfield, The Prodigy, and other artists. Curated by JD Twitch, it’s a retro setlist that will propel fans of Techno, House, and Trance back in time. Meanwhile, neophytes may discover a new style of music. The glorious monochromatic cinematography is punctuated by bursts of color as the evening progresses. Like Dorothy arriving in the land of Oz, the effect visually underscores an emotionally powerful transformation of the characters. I felt what they experienced and the trip was an absolute joy.

09-14-20

6 Responses to “Beats”

  1. Totally agree, think a lot of people would love Beats if they give it a try!

    Like

  2. Daryl Purdie Says:

    This was a very good film. And very authentic too.

    Like

  3. I had no idea what to expect with this. I was so surprised at how good this was. Very raw. 4 ⭐️

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: