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Two teenagers find their friendship tested in Brian Welsh’s terrific evocation of 90s Britain


Shot in the kind of scrappy black and white that looks like a photocopied club flyer, Beats is both a coming-of-age and a film about endings. The backdrop is the nub end of the illegal rave scene, about to succumb to the twin pronged attack of, on one side, the criminal justice bill, and on the other the club entrepreneurs seeking to turn an act of rebellion into an industry. It’s also about the end of the New Labour dream – Scottish director Brian Welsh threads through snippets of news reports which, with the benefit of hindsight, presage national disillusionment.

Most of all, the film is also about the burnout of young male friendship, between frazzled live wire Spanner (Lorn Macdonald) and his buddy Johnno (Cristian Ortega). Theirs is a bond forged on a mutual love of the kind of exuberant banging techno that only teenage boys can truly appreciate; their dream is to go to a rave together. But time is against them – Johnno is moving to a better part of town; Spanner, meanwhile, is stuck in a health hazard of a flat with his bullying older brother. It’s a terrific little film that combines the earthy humour and honesty of a Shane Meadows movie with an unexpected expressionistic section – flooded with colour – that channels the boys’ joyful dancefloor abandon.


Beats is now playing at Light House Cuba and Petone


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