By Brian Lafferty
August 29, 2012 (San Diego) – The first half of 2012 saw the release of not one but two films by British director David Mackenzie, although the second one never played in San Diego. The first was Perfect Sense, released in February. Although small in scope, it was quite a cinematic trip, a melancholia-saturated tale of two people who fall in love, a love tested when the whole world loses their five senses one by one. Perfect Sense was in some ways pretentious, it was heavily restrained in every respect (mood, acting, writing, etc.), and it was dead serious in tone. It's the type of movie that you either mock or you buy into and relish; I did the latter.
The second was Tonight You're Mine (known abroad as You Instead), which was screened for critics in San Diego before the distributor changed its mind and cancelled the engagement. Like Perfect Sense, it's also a love story, but that’s where all similarities end. Director Mackenzie directs this film as if he wanted to unleash all the mammoth energy pent-up in Perfect Sense into his next feature. Expend he certainly does.
Mackenzie wastes no time jump-starting the plot, which is set during a Scottish music festival. Feuding rock stars Adam (Luke Treadaway) and Morello (Natalia Tena, who certain Harry Potter devotees will recognize as Nymphadora Tonks) are inexplicably handcuffed by a preacher, who wants to teach them a lesson. Through this inconvenience, the two realize they actually like each other. Mackenzie pads the film with a couple of subplots, primarily one involving Adam's manager's pathetically failed attempts at hooking up with young women.
The atmosphere is more electric than a neon sign factory. I've never been to a music festival, or even a rock concert, but Mackenzie has me convinced that this is what it's like to be a part of one. It's loud, for one thing. Even when the action occurs far away from the stage, you can still hear the music clearly, like listening to a radio across the room. Both the music and the constantly cheering crowds are white noise.
Few people this side of the Atlantic will recognize many of the bands and their music. In fact, there is only one that I knew and that was The Proclaimers, who give a live rendition of I would Walk 500 Miles. The rest I don’t remember (I'm assuming those in the United Kingdom are more familiar with them), but during the film the music plays an integral part in the atmosphere. Sometimes the music drowns out dialogue, a neat trick to invite the audience into the setting. The music made me feel happy and invigorated.
The handheld documentary-style camerawork further evokes the feeling of being there. It's the primary reason why everything is so hectic. Everything moves by so fast, and so much happens so quickly, that the feverish camerawork is suitable for this fast-paced atmosphere. To further add to the realism is the "rough," quasi-videotape look of each frame. Despite the documentary-style camera work and cinematography, it doesn’t aspire to mockumentary, or even cinema verite. It wants to involve the audience, to get them into the mood and into the atmosphere.
When it comes to romantic comedies, I could care less about formula. Say Anything..., one of my favorite films of all-time has a formulaic love story where boy meets girl, boy gets girl, and you know the rest. It's because of the performances by John Cusack and Ione Skye, because of the tender romance and chemistry between them, and because of Cameron Crowe's smart screenplay that elevates it..
Tonight You're Mine isn't one of my favorite movies of all-time, but the same logic applies. It's obvious to anyone who has seen a movie that the two will fall in love, they'll have a spat, and they'll make up again. It gave me pleasure to see them talk to each other. They're extremely pleasant people to be around. They aren't even opposites; they don't fit any stereotype that would easily fit into the mold of two people being handcuffed. They don't bicker, they don't harbor extreme animosity towards each other. They just deal. These two are meant for each other and I would have hated to see it not work out. They're both very attractive and they're smart.
Tonight You're Mine goes by so fast, like a Six Flags Magic Mountain roller coaster. It’s a blur that delivers an emotionally exhilarating feeling. This is more than just a romantic comedy: it’s an experience.
A Sony Pictures Home Entertainment release. Director: David Mackenzie. Screenplay: Thomas Leveritt. Original Music: Brian McAlpine. Cinematography: Giles Nuttgens. Cast: Luke Treadaway, Natalia Tena, Mathew Baynton, and Gavin Mitchell. 80 minutes. Rated R.