December 7, 2020

SCREEN | 'Small Axe' – Steve McQueen Celebrates 'Lovers Rock'

"If you are the big tree, we are the small axe."
Shaniqua Okwok Steve McQueen | Small Axe: Lovers Rock
BBC / Amazon Studios
British-African auteur Steve McQueen has achieved something truly special with his five-part Small Axe anthology series of feature-length historical films about the West Indian immigrant community in the Notting Hill neighbourhood of London throughout the 1960-80s. His magnum opus of these, however, is undoubtedly the soulfully exhilarating Lovers Rock so-named after the popular subgenre of reggae music. It's a crazy romantic film about the love of dance and music.

Starring Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn and Micheal Ward as would-be new lovers, the intimate 68-minute film charmingly barely has a plot. Essentially a one-night story about a house party club night, the romance unfolds around young people going somewhere safe to dance without being persecuted or instigated by police or other Londoners. A dangerous sense of tension around violence and sexual assault effectively permeates the film in a realistic fashion yet the Black joy displayed cannot be defeated.

Co-written by Courttia Newland alongside McQueen, Lovers Rock visualizes a countless amount of extended dance sequences where our neighbhourhood characters just feel the reggae music as we gaze upon their lingering bodies in motion. It's a joyous depiction of musical celebration. How McQueen realizes the choreography of dance, beats, lyrics, style, mood, and performance is absolutely dynamite.

McQueen has crafted an endless dance party on screen with Lovers Rock. It has such a joyous feel to it while still firmly being grounded in the realities of the British-Caribbean community in West London at the time. It's literally a party and hangout experience of a film for the ages. It's sheer bliss.

Lovers Rock is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video as part of the Small Axe series.

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