NEW TO VOD! Two Scottish teens – Johnno (Cristian Ortega) and Spanner (Lorn Macdonald) – embrace a fleeting moment in their lives. These friends don’t have much in common, except for a fierce sense of loyalty towards each other. Set during the rebellious rave culture of the 1990s, Beats captures the transitional and enlightening time when teenagers relish in their youth before embarking on adulthood.
Johnno’s mother, Alison (Laura Fraser), disapproves of his association with Spanner. His brother is bad news, and his family is considered to be the “scum” of their small town. It also doesn’t help that Alison’s beau is a cop. They don’t understand the way Spanner has always looked out for Johnno. They only see trouble. In some ways, they’re right.
Spanner and his friends take Johnno to an illegal rave held in protest of the UK banning all free parties at which music with the same consecutive beats cannot be played. Youths gather in revolt, flipping a big bird to the powers that be. Spanner and Johnno uninhibitedly celebrate their friendship and let loose, knowing they may never share a moment like this again.
“…an illegal rave held in protest of the UK banning all free parties at which music with the same consecutive beats cannot be played.”
Brian Welsh carefully crafted a love letter to the rave culture he grew up with and adored. I can’t relate to it, but I can recognize the tact of his storytelling. The film is mostly in black and white, giving it a throwback feel. We see splashes of color and psychedelic images at the height of the rave when the music pulses louder, and their drugs kick-in stronger. A group of hyped strangers becomes fast friends, although they will probably never see each other again.
I’m sure Beats will feel wonderfully nostalgic for those who participated in raves when they briefly existed. If raves aren’t your jam (like me), you’ll still be moved by Johnno and Spanner’s friendship. Their bond is the heart of this film. These boys love each other like brothers. They’ve had one another’s back since childhood. They are sad to part ways. Their innocent intimacy and candor are surprising. You don’t often see teenage boys wearing their hearts on their sleeves – but Johnno and Spanner don’t mask their feelings.
Overall, Beats is a good film. Welsh’s intentions are clear, and his passion is palpable. I probably would have enjoyed the movie more if I cared about raves and liked that kind of music. The anarchist mentality is lost on me. It is also slow-moving at times. My interest particularly waned during all the extended shouting, tripping, and mosh-pit dancing. It felt like I was experiencing the rave in real-time. Maybe that’s a plus for those who want to be there. After all, it wouldn’t be fair to claim there was too much raving in a rave film.
Beats screened at the 2019 Slamdance Film Festival.
"…Welsh’s intentions are clear, and his passion is palpable."