You Instead (15)
Release date: Friday 16 September
Cast: Luke Treadaway (Attack The Block, Killing Bono), Natalia Tena (Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part Two, About A Boy)
Director: David MacKenzie (Young Adam, Hallam Foe)
Screenwriter: Thomas Leveritt (The Exchange-Rate Between Love and Money – novel)
Running Time: 80 mins
Anyone that has ever staggered out of a tent and into a field, unaware of where the stage begins and the cloudy skies end, will draw a certain pleasure from visiting Scotland’s premier music festival, T in the Park, courtesy of You Instead. The fact that you’ll spend the evening mud free, however, is one of its few plus points.
The joy of viewing bands from the comfort of a dry, air conditioned cinema seat is all well and good for concert films, but David MacKenzie sets his target as an offbeat romantic comedy, which happens to feature live music. Balancing the two proves his hardest task.
In such a rush to get to its concept the film gives us next to nothing in the way of character introduction. You Instead opens with its admittedly catchy title song and then bam, it’s twelve word pitch time, as ‘boy and girl who don’t get on are handcuffed to each other’, in this case Adam and Morello (Treadaway and Tena) who are diametrically opposed in their tastes but oh-so-similar in their characteristics.
Of course You Instead should, and does, take full advanatge of the music on offer but there has to be a point where the music gives way to the story. At least five full length songs by the two fictional bands eat up way too much of the already slight 80 minute running time. Add to this cutaways to every band playing the 2010 festival and we barely spend half an hour with our main protagonists.
On the plus side, and it feels like a cliché to note, T in the Park is another character in the story. It’s by far and away the film-makers greatest achievement, utilising 85,000 extras and several of the bigger names in music, to immerse the viewer in the festival. In some regards, you’ll feel like you were there.
It’s a shame then that the pre-production phase didn’t give the cast the script they deserved, relying far too often on improvisation that sadly commits the ultimate sin of feeling forced rather than natural. While leads Tena and Treadaway start out as the kind of swaggering pop pricks that would turn up to a camp-fire uninvited, armed with guitars, by the end they begin to grow on you. Their narcissism removed they become people you’d like to spend a little while longer with. So long as they wait for an invite before whipping out their instruments.
Considering it was made for less than a million quid and in under a week, there are notable qualities to David Mackenzie’s lo-fi effort. As an advert for T in the Park, and festivals in general, You Instead sings a pleasant tune, but as a welly wearing Before Sunrise it hits nothing more than a series of bum notes.