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Dour reality meets its nemesis in 1990s rave culture in this exuberant memoir of teenage bonding from Scotland. Cowed by his mother’s allegiance to her new boyfriend, a super straight police officer, 15-year-old Johnno (Cristian Ortega) is persuaded to abscond by his genially unhinged mate Spanner (Lorn Macdonald). Their destination? An outdoor all-night rave newly rendered illegal by Britain’s Criminal Justice Act, which authorised police to break up events where music was “wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.” Truly.
“It feels superficial to compare Beats to Trainspotting: it’s Scottish, it’s the mid-90s, it’s young tearaways, it’s drugs. But it’s the sensory impact too – Beats bottles a very similar brand of lightning to Danny Boyle’s film, consistently exploding with energy and emotion… Beats is about brotherhood between two best friends but also among an entire culture…
While never deviating from its brilliant young stars, Beats is a tribute to the rave revolution, communicating via its emotion, sounds and a hefty whack of psychedelic visuals exactly what it felt like. It’s miraculously authentic – the pill-popping centrepiece is the heavenly answer to the LSD hell of Gaspar Noé’s Climax. But it’s all about the people… an ode not just to human gatherings but to youth itself. It’s absolutely a period piece (heightened by being in black and white), but its humanity is ageless, serving up an irresistible amount of thrills, spills and jaw-aches.” — Alex Godfrey, Time Out