Review: ‘BEATS’ is one long bender with a beautiful comedown

Review: ‘BEATS’ is one long bender with a beautiful comedown

Words by Emily Komiyama


We will never be short on nostalgic pieces set in politically tumultuous times in history.

Based on Kieran Hurley’s play of the same name, Brian Welsh’s film BEATS could almost be considered a period piece with its classic black and white grittiness and tribute to the rave scene of mid-1990s Scotland.

Specifically exploring the notorious Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 which outlawed gatherings of over 20 people listening to “repetitive beats” and the rebellious movement it sparked, the film does well to capture a snapshot of a truly pivotal time.

BEATS follows two 15-year-old boys on the brink of the next chapter of their lives, something they both internally acknowledge will drive them apart.

Johnno (Cristian Ortega) is a week away from moving to the ‘nice’ side of town to attend a better school and likely make more parent-friendly friends.

Spanner (Lorn Macdonald), the loose unit whose dark path is already laid out in perfectly clear vision, wants to spend their last days together celebrating their unhinged friendship while also taking advantage of the last rave they can attend to protest the new legislation being put in place.

It’s a story about conclusions. Friendships come and go. Political bills come and stay. Revolutions are overpowered. Life carries on. What makes BEATS unique is that its central characters understand this.

Despite the rave revolution being the surface level connection between the pair, there is undeniably a stronger bond at play. They understand each other’s struggles and that their class differences will set their life trajectories down different paths.

Ortega and Macdonald play polar opposites and bounce off each other with equal compatibility and incompatibility. They are the true sense of a love-hate relationship and their expiry date is on the horizon.

Despite the black and white format, BEATS feels like it’s bursting with colour. The rave energy, the highs and lows and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it flashes, the youthful but aggressive rebellion against the authorities – it’s an all intense experience from start to finish and feels like one long bender in itself.

You’ll be wired by the end of it, and will surprisingly feel some heart amongst the comedown. And if you’re old enough, and local enough, to have grown up in ’90s Britain, it’ll take you down memory lane.

All the points in the world to anyone who can get through the entire film understanding every line of dialogue. The thick Glasgow accent is in its prime here.

Watch BEATS on Vimeo, Google Play or iTunes.

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