'Lovers Rock' review: Steve McQueen's film is an immersive experience in the best way

This is a mini review of a movie that deserves a mountain of superlatives.

November 25, 2020, 4:04 AM

This is a mini review of a movie that deserves a mountain of superlatives. Part of Steve McQueen's "Small Axe" series on Amazon Prime, "Lovers Rock" is an immersive experience that invites you to fall under its sensual spell. You won't be able to resist.

The other four films in McQueen's anthology take a strong political stance regarding the civil rights of West Indians in the neighborhoods of London where the director of the Oscar-winning "12 Years a Slave" grew up. "Lovers Rock" is about the joy of cutting loose. It's pure pleasure.

Set in 1980, at a dance party in a West London house on a Saturday night, "Lovers Rock" exults in the release found by Black men and women who are denied access to white clubs. The plot, such as it is, revolves around the growing attraction between Martha, a striking Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn, and Franklyn, played by Micheal Ward, the Jamaican actor and model who won justified raves this year for "Blue Story."

Still, as dazzling as Ward and St. Aubyn are, it's the sensory atmosphere and music of "Lovers Rock" that sweeps you away on waves of rapturous romance.

PHOTO: Micheal Ward and Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn appear in a scene from "Lovers Rock".
Micheal Ward and Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn appear in a scene from "Lovers Rock".
Amazon Studios

McQueen begins with preparations for the party -- the goat curry being readied, the rug being rolled up, the sound system being installed, the bright swirl of colors on the clothes. Gifted cinematographer Shabier Kirchner makes you almost dizzy with the sights and sounds.

When Janet Kay's 1979 hit "Silly Games" spins on the turntable and the partygoers begin to sing and dance along -- the camera swaying to the reggae beats -- you'll feel like you're there with them.

That's the point, isn't it? On this specific night, at this specific party, McQueen conjures up a general feeling of euphoria that speaks to the power of belonging, no matter what community you call your own.

The pandemic has made it almost impossible to recreate the crush of bodies throbbing to same beat on a crowded dance floor. But "Lovers Rock" -- named after a prized style of reggae music -- makes you revel in it.

Running a scant 70 minutes, you won't want this party to end.

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