Director: Franc Roddam.
Starring: Sting, Phil Daniels, Leslie Ash, Toyah Wilcox, Mark Wingett, Phil Davies, Ray Winstone UK. 2h 0m.
Based heavily on one of the musicals written The Who, this landmark film really captures a slice of British History, albeit a little glamorized and hyped up, it’s a great glance back in time for us youngins. One of the merits of this “not a musical/musical” is that there is no singing or dancing.. , it’s heavily structured by the Who’s powerful soundtrack but it’s only a part of the film and isn’t too overbearing.
Starting with some ambiguity, the film slowly and passionately details the working man’s life, the working man is Johnny, day to day he’s the mail boy, dealing with post by day and dealing with drugs and parties by night. He makes the schoolboy error of falling in love with a popular girl Lesley Ash (without her trout pout) but she hardly notices him and in turn he totally ignores a chemist who’s besotted with him and keeps him pilled up played by the lovely round faced Toyah Wilcox. Generally the drugs comes from Milky a black two-stone dealer who can be hard to find but the mods like to party and they party a lot, the only thing on their mind (apart from girls) is partying until the big event in Brighton and fighting the Rockers!
On first viewing the film is just another English drama, all about Johnny, getting by in life and living for the big beaches of Brighton where he and his crew are heading for long bank holiday weekend but as the movie progresses, through the bath houses, and greasy spoon cafes of the london street sceen, Johnny is experiencing something a little deeper than his’ peers and family really understand. Johnny is a pure mod, he lives and breathes the movement, and is a pillar of the small community, but his dreams are to be noticed with the big guys in Brighton, especially; Face (Sting) his ultimate hero and he can’t wait to meet him and bask in his company.
The copious amounts of pills and hormones aren’t helping, his head is all over the show, often missing work to spend time working on his bike, his future employment is at risk but he doesn’t care, he doesn’t want the 9-5, he has no aspirations to fit in with society he just wants the mod life, the young hopeful is building himself up to something so great it might not be achievable. His family barely notice that he’s alive, and have no clue what he’s really about, his family are his chosen friends..
The second half of the film things do start to spiral out of control, the group make their way to Brighton, they meet the legends and icons, go dancing and do some fighting, everything they dreamt of, Johnny even gets a bizarre encounter with his beloved up a dodgy alleyway during the fight, this spot is still a mod mecca point which is testament to the everlasting cult behind this film. Sting makes a small appearance at Face, the mod of all mods with the moddest bike on the planet, his character is also the breaking point for little Johnny when the a reality check hits him at a crucial moment and as his life is spiralling out of control, but with his eureka moment it dawns on the viewer that there might be an underlying mental problem here, Johnny is made up of all the characters from the Who, his schizophrenic personality changes in tune with the music… The end of the film is the beginning of the film, leading some to believe that this is a cycle of life that our hero Is trapped in, or it could just be artistic licence…
It’s pretty unmissable and you don’t need to be an acolyte of the scene to appreciate the heart of our lonely hero. It’s easy to identify with Johnny he’s the inner teenager within most of us stumbling over the problems that arise from not wanting to adult. We all crave some excitement but most of us regain some kind of balance and end up conforming, what happens to Johnny as he walks back from the White Cliffs of Dover might have made a powerful sequel.
R – Northern Soul (2014), One Man Black Metal (2012)
L – Musicals