The watershed documentaries 'Woodstock' and 'Gimme Shelter' established the extremes of music festival movies, from the highs of peace, love, drugs and nudity, to the lows of overzealous security guards beating a man to death.
The fictional feature 'You Instead,' shot on location in four-and-a-half days at the real-life T in the Park festival in Scotland, definitely leans toward 'Woodstock' rather than 'Gimme Shelter.' The film, which had its North American Premiere at SXSW, deftly captures the pleasant vibe of a gigantic summertime festival where no humans or animals were harmed.
Adam (Luke Treadaway) and Morello (Natalia Tena) meet cute when they're handcuffed together shortly after they arrive separately at the festival. They're both musicians; he's part of a duo called The Make with his mate Tyko (Matthew Baynton), and she's a member of the female quartet The Dirty Pinks. The two groups get into a dispute in the parking area; Adam and Morello are in the midst of a screaming match when a passing security guard (Joseph Mydell) snaps on the cuffs and promptly disappears.
In short order, everyone realizes the mysterious figure was not an official security guard. Adam and Morello start dragging each other around the festival, looking for someone to free them. They meet up with their respective romantic partners: Adam's girlfriend Lake (Ruta Gedmintas) is a haughty supermodel and Morello's boyfriend Mark (Alastair Mackenzie) is a boring banker. With stereotypes in place and initial misunderstandings set straight, the two couples end up on an unconventional double date.
That frees up Tyko to hit on every woman in sight, notably Morello's bandmate Kirsty (Kari Corbett). The Make's middle-aged manager Bobby (Gavin Mitchell) strikes out with every young woman in sight before switching to the obviously familiar comforts of drunkenness. Kim (Sophie Wu), an activist, keeps popping up with a microphone and camerawoman in tow, politely interviewing fest-goers to promote her cause.
'You Instead,' directed by David Mackenzie and scripted by novelist Thomas Leveritt, presents nothing new in its plot outline. It's a classic romantic comedy set-up; opposites attract, resist, give in; friends discourage; complications ensue and so forth. As always, it depends on the characters, performers and delivery; 'You Instead' succeeds on those counts in a low-key, fully engaging manner.
Treadaway, who also appears in SXSW 2011 fave 'Attack the Block,' makes for an unusual pairing with Tena. They're both attractive people, but beyond their feisty banter, the sparks don't really start flying until they share a stage. Morello's group is due to perform on a smaller stage earlier in the evening, so she's forced to drag him along. It's an incongruous sight for Adam to be standing / crouching beside Morello as she sings and plays keyboards in front of a cheering crowd, but the magic happens when he starts to sabotage her group's performance.
At first, it seems unbelievably mean-spirited for Adam, who's already a huge star, to undermine Morello in the middle of a song on which she's singing the lead vocals. Her band mates glare at him, but they can't do anything to stop it. Then Adam progresses from plunking a single note to playing chords and then belting out "Tainted Love" as The Dirty Pinks are still playing their song, finally forcing them to segue into "Tainted Love." It's outrageous, it's selfish, it's immature, it infuriates the band -- and the crowd loves it. Begrudgingly, Morello loves it too.
Adam and Morello, it turns out, make beautiful music together, and so does 'You Instead.'