Access All Areas

***1/2

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Access All Areas
"A cast of talented actors and a superabundance of musical acts and a genuine sense of fun."

Access All Areas manages to convey the full majesty of the festival experience, pulling together disparate influences and elements into a colourful panoply and celebration, something that despite the profusion of stages and lights and noises becomes something human and special. Access All Areas does all that with the aid of a cast of talented actors and a superabundance of musical acts and a genuine sense of fun.

Edward Bluemel is Heath, a musician struggling with a few things, his best friend Leon (Jordan Stephens, of Rizzle Kicks and briefly Rogue One) is adamant that he'll get him a gig, but there are more pressing problems. When his boss' daughter Mia (Ellen Purnell) steals his scooter and heads for a music festival with her friend Natalie (Georgie Henley) he's sent after her. Which is where the magic happens.

There are references to Apocalypse Now and chunks of the Shakespearean canon (our heroes travel to an island where they meet a chap called Caliban) and Phil Daniels appears as a uniformed ferry-man and throughout there's a general air of camraderie and bonhomie and the occasional bit of mystery that might not be everyone's cup of tea but worked (to my own surprise) for me.

The soundtrack is sufficiently diverse as to do credit to any festival line-up, and while large amounts were filmed at Bestival on the Isle of Wight other performances were acquired from elsewhere and though there are both live music and crowds aplenty one suspects a little cinema magic as well as the help of a mysterious stranger. Luc Besson's TAXI might have had a scooter sequence set to a quality version of Miserlou, but here there's one soundtracked by Souixsie and the Banshees. Though it ends in an underpass confrontation it's much lighter, though just as bright, than its Slo-Mo influenced equivalent in Dredd. That lightness is reflected elsewhere - there are conflicts, there's peril, there's an inevitable moment with a smartphone in a portaloo, but there's also a parade, rope-dancing, and while there's a dark campervan of the soul there's still some lightness.

The presence of a character called Kurtz on an island at the end of a long boat ride might be a little on the nose and perhaps it was gratitude at something I recognised but there was also something in the sense that this would be an excellent set text for media studies teachers. That's much more boring and prosaic than the film deserves, but it meant there was definitely something for me to enjoy. If you go to an actual festival you can probably get your hands on a good falafel or some quality dhal or garlic heavy pizza, there's something other than music to enjoy and that's true here. There are some good moments backstage, in particular the disconnect between the fairy realm and corporate pragmatism. There is a tendency to the scatalogical in the humour, there's some degree of falling over, and there's at least one use of psychoactive substances but it's not as jarring as one might think.

There's also, I should stress, some great music - I lost track of how many acts and genres were represented but there were at least two songs I really liked and I'm a gloomy refusenik. My musical tastes are far more 6music than Radio 1, but I suspect that listeners to 2 and 3 would find something for them as well.

This is writer Oliver Veysey's feature debut, and he's crafted something charming, to the point where a re-watch will probably dig up more references that I lost in the sea of glitter and wall of sound that TV veteran Bryn Higgins has assembled. The young cast are charming, older hands like Jo Hartley and Nigel Lindsay provide capable support in quite distinct parental roles, and while I don't think it constitutes a spoiler to say that it's got a relatively happy ending it manages not to feel forced. It does rely in places on remarkably well informed security guards or the puckish co-operation of performers lowered from the headings, but that part of me that might feel critical was also amused by the didactic potential.

It's probably a bit prosaic and adult of me to be highlighting this, but I am also of the opinion that vegetables are tasty. Access All Areas has the potential to amuse all audiences, and while it isn't quite a road movie it's still a compelling journey. There's something in it for most, and what surrounds it is entertaining, and on that basis it's recommended to you.

Reviewed on: 01 Jul 2017
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Access All Areas packshot
A group of British teenagers go on a road trip to an island music festival.

Festivals:

EIFF 2017
EastEnd 2017

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