‘Lovers Rock’ Is A Bold, Beautiful And Black AF Romance – Review
Ooh, Steve McQueen, you have delivered quite the experience! Lovers Rock is not just a film, it’s a teleportation device that sends you to Ladbroke Grove to enjoy a single evening at a house party in 1980. There you will feel the beat of the music in your chest, the sweat rolling down your back, and the warm embrace of a potential lover.
McQueen abandons any sort of narrative thread and in lieu throws us into the midst of sumptuous and sensational night of good company, good food, and good music. The night follows a group of first and second generation young Brits of West Indian descent. Some find love. Some find companionship. Some find comfort and adoration after a frightening scare. Some find an escape from the muddy world outside the safety of the walls. This is a community of people that share the good times and the bad times together. However, at the heart of this film is a complete adoration for the community that McQueen holds so dearly.
At the centre of this somewhat narrative-less tale is a blossoming romance between Franklyn (Michael Ward) and Martha (Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn), as the two meet for the first time and have an immediate connection. As the night unfolds, we watch as they get over those meet-cute jitters and sway seductively to the music. Longing gazes and long stretches of silence showcase their acting ability to emote pure and electric chemistry. Whether this romance lasts past the night or not, it is clear that this encounter will be amongst the most memorable for the pair. Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn is beyond captivating as our leading lady. With a bright smile and dazzling aura she captures exactly what is needed from a romantic lead.
However, the true star of the film is McQueen’s camera work, which puts us smack in the middle of the festivities. The film is an ode to the romantic reggae genre “lovers rock” and McQueen is determined to have you fall in love with it. McQueen is not set on just simply having a passive showcase of a night of laughter, romance, singing and dancing. He wants the audience to experience it. No matter who you are, there is nothing that can deter you from enjoying the party. That being said, the audience that will certainly gain a more intimate connection from the film are those with West Indies backgrounds. There is no attempt to coddle or hand-hold non-West Indies viewers. McQueen is unwavering in his commitment in giving us an authentic experience. That starts and ends with his camera work, putting us in the shoes of silent observer.
Lovers Rock is a masterful depiction of life as part of the West Indies community in England. A life that despite centuries of plays, TV, film, and other forms of entertainment in England, is nearly invisible. Through his Small Axe anthology series, McQueen is offering more than just a window into the lives of people who call the U.K. their home; he is putting us in their shoes to experience the highs and lows. With Lovers Rock, he gives nothing but that glorious high.