You Instead review

David Mackenzie’s rom-com, You Instead, was shot in just five days. Here’s Carley’s review of a film that doesn’t quite overcome its low-budget status…

We’ve just come to the end of another great British summer, filled with barbecues, long walks on the beach, and sun-drenched music festivals. No, scratch that – it was filled with rain, disappointment and muddy music festivals. But in spite of the horrible weather, the music festival has become a British obsession, with hundreds sprouting up over the summer. These range from big ones, such as Reading and V, to smaller ones, like the Ben & Jerry’s Sundae Festival (free ice cream – yum).

It was probably only a matter of time, then, before one of these became the setting for a romantic comedy, which is exactly what you get with director David Mackenzie’s You Instead, filmed on location at 2010’s T in the Park in Scotland.

Adam (Luke Treadaway) and Morello (Natalia Tena) are as opposite as you can get on the musical spectrum. Adam is the lead singer in the highly successful The Make, who sound suspiciously like The Killers, while Morello fronts an up-and-coming riot-grrrl band, Dirty Pinks. While backstage at T in the Park, the two are handcuffed together by a preacher (Al Green – yes, the Al Green), who wants to teach them the art of getting along.

Throw in a model girlfriend (Ruta Gedmintas) for Adam, and a wealthy banker boyfriend (Alastair Mackenzie) for Morello, and the foursome are forced to spend a long evening together, with a predictable love story forming between the two musicians.

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Shot over five days, You Instead has a relatively short running time of 80 minutes. This lets the movie down somewhat when it comes to characters and plot, but does mean the festival’s atmosphere is authentically captured – this is probably the most impressive part of the film, and Mackenzie’s style of direction feels fresh throughout. Sadly, the same can’t be said about the characters themselves. The story is interesting and unusual, but squeezed into such a short space of time, and suffering from a predictable outcome, it fails to live up to its promise.

You Instead skips over the leads’ romance rather too quickly – it just happens because it has to, which leaves the resulting relationship feeling more than a little false. This rush to get the leads together pretty much sweeps their previous relationships under the carpet.

So little time is spent on establishing them that there’s no real emotion pull when they come to an end. Both Gedmintas and Mackenzie are criminally underused in their jilted lover roles, and the film could have been far more dramatic had their characters been better established.

The two leads don’t fare much better, although they’re fantastically cast – Treadaway was recently seen in Killing Bono, and Tena fronts her own band when not playing Tonks in the Harry Potter films. They’re both believable in the roles they inhabit, but they’re not given sufficient space to round out their characters – instead, they merely tick a series of stereotypical boxes.

The real star of the film, though, is Mathew Baynton (who’s also fantastic in BBC’s Horrible Histories). He makes up the second half of Adam’s band, The Make. His kooky character, Tyko, lives the entire festival experience over a period of 24 hours, along with band manager Bobby (Gavin Mitchell), and is consistently funny, open, and probably the most fleshed out character in the entire movie. I would have preferred to have seen far more of him, rather than the tedious breakups between the rest of the cast.

So, given that it’s set during a rock festival, what can we say about You Instead’s music? Well, it isn’t totally amazing, but it isn’t awful either, with the fictional bands’ original songs faring pretty well against the real ones, though I struggle to believe that the two songs The Make perform really would have gained much chart success. 

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Overall, although I admire that the film was shot on location, with a tiny budget and huge time constraints, I wish that a tighter script had been established before shooting, rather than the slap-dash one we’re left with.

Although enjoyable, You Instead will, sadly, linger in your memory for about as long as that last warm beer on the final day of a music festival.

You Instead is out in UK cinemas on Friday.


2 out of 5