2 min read

Most Unexpected Moment on Film

The epilogue, part 2 of 4

Even though I suppose it came out in 2020, I think most people didn't get to see Steve McQueen's Small Axe anthology until 2021. Count me among them. All 5 parts are excellent and worth watching, but the real standout by a significant margin is Lovers Rock. Lovers Rock feels like actually attending a house party, demonstrating that a director like McQueen has a significantly more expansive concept of what a film can be than I do. Again, if you've seen the film you almost certainly know exactly the moment when this becomes clear, and if you haven't I could tell you exactly what happens in that moment and you still wouldn't be ready for it. It's the "Silly Games" scene of course. I was going to write my own thing about it, but I found this bit from K. Austin Collins that seems about perfect, so I'll let it roll:

All of a sudden, you’re no longer watching a movie, but a part of one. Your body is moving alongside those onscreen, even if you’re sitting still. You’re hitting the high notes like they are, even if silent; you’re smiling in wonder, like everyone else, at the woman who’s really hitting those notes, who’s lost herself in them. And you’re watching it all happen in images that beckon you forth, images that beautifully sum up the sense of losing oneself, abandoning oneself, to radiant sounds and communal feelings.

Here's how powerful that moment actually is: I watched it on an airplane - universally agreed to be the worst possible environment for enjoying a film - and I was still completely in McQueen's grasp. I kept looking around the cabin trying to find someone else who was seeing this, who was experiencing this. I would have loved to see Lovers Rock in the cinema with a bunch of other people, but I'm also very grateful for the weird intimacy of watching it on a small screen on the back of a seat on an Emirates flight that would end up becoming the dividing line that separated the year in two.