Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology started on BBC One last week with the striking Mangrove, a vital story of protest, police brutality and the Mangrove Nine’s fight for justice. This week, the series returns with a very different, yet just as striking portrait of Black British history – and it can only be described as a vibe.
Lovers Rock stars newcomer Amarah-Jae St Aubyn and Top Boy’s Micheal Ward as Martha and Franklyn, two strangers who meet at a Caribbean house party in 1980s west London. The hour-long film – which gets its name from a genre of romantic reggae – spans a single, sensual night, and we’re sucked into it completely as the camera dips and swoops amid the swaying bodies and swirls of smoke. Ward is charismatic and charming as the love interest, and at times his chemistry with the luminous St Aubyn is so real that you feel you should respectfully look away and leave them to it.
Though the main focus is the budding romance between Martha and Franklyn, plot is regularly suspended for minutes at a time in favour of scenes of pure artistic beauty: ecstatic dance-offs; the rhythmic call-and-response of the DJs and revellers; and at one point a spine-tingling a cappella rendition of Janet Kay’s Silly Games
Ultimately, though, Lovers Rock
Small Axe continues with Lovers Rock on Sunday 22 November at 9pm on BBC One.
Meena Alexander is Stylist magazine’s features editor.