Adam (Luke Treadaway) and Morello (Natalia Tena) have a big problem: it’s not that Adam is the heart-throb lead-singer in a famous electro-pop band or that his girlfriend is a spoiled stroppy supermodel. His problem is Morello’s problem. Morello’s problem isn’t that she’s lead singer in a struggling post-punk riot girl band OR that she’s dating a banker. No, her problem is that she has to perform the biggest gig of her life at a music festival while hand-cuffed to the kind of person she totally despises – Adam.
Even though David McKenzie’s You Instead is steeped in cool posturing, hipster fashion, trendy music and self-absorbed dialogue, the film is ultimately an all-too sappy, old-fashioned romantic drama. The final frames finally rouse a little 'movie magic’ but for the bulk of the 80 minutes it takes to get there, this raucous, rambling mess finds its energy from some great music moments courtesy of Scotland’s T in the Park outdoor festival... and very little else.
The final frames meant to generate warmth are pure schmaltz, even if
they are set to a pulsating mod-pop backbeat and moshpit madness
A little push and shove over a tedious misunderstanding leads to indie pop douche Adam (Luke Treadaway) and rock-and-roll chick Morello (Natalia Tena) being handcuffed to each other by a wacky security guard who may or may not be some kind of Cupid figure (Joseph Mydell). For the next long while, the chained-together pair looks for him, the keys, a saw, some bolt-cutters, and so on. There are minor complications with Adam’s model girlfriend (Ruta Gedmintas) and Morello’s straight-laced nice-guy banker boyfriend (Alastair McKenzie), but the thrills of some four-way hedonism (not like that, though) soon counters petty jealousies.
Subplots are entirely perfunctory, existing only for comic relief or some sort of grand statement, here in the form of videographer-activist Kim (Sophie Wu), whose role amounts to a whole lot of nothing. What’s left is a great deal of footage of Adam and Morello stumbling inescapably from band-to-band and bar-to-bar whilst head-to-toe in mud, initially just enjoying each other’s company in what looks to be mostly improvised scenes, until finally becoming smitten with one another. Neither Treadaway nor Tena offer any qualities that make you hope they end up together, their cool rock-star smugness working against audience empathy (despite some relevant pedigree: Treadaway starred with his twin brother Harry in 2005’s punk chronicle Brothers of the Head; Tena is lead singer of Molotov Jukebox). The final frames meant to generate warmth are pure schmaltz, even if they are set to a pulsating mod-pop backbeat and moshpit madness.
To his credit, McKenzie does perfectly capture the thumping vibe of an outdoor music weekend; his future may lie in music docos. All that really resonates about You Instead emanates from the footage of enraptured music fans bouncing to the beats of Paolo Nutini, Biffy Clyro, The Proclaimers, Calvin Harris, Paloma Faith and Al Green.
The director’s decision to mimic the cacophony of the concert setting by over-lapping dialogue in an ultra-realistic Altman-esque fashion backfires badly, as much of the scripted text (of which there is little of importance) is indecipherable. Despite the film’s occasionally accelerated sense of drama, nothing happens here that hasn’t been captured before with far more grace and intelligence. It is generational pop music romantic fluff, no lesser a film but certainly no cooler than Saturday Night Fever or Dirty Dancing seemed in its day.