You Instead: Film Review

David Mackenzie romance uses a real-world music fest as backdrop for thinly plotted story of bad behavior.

Director David Mackenzie's film about two rival band members handcuffed to each other takes too long to find its footing.

AUSTIN — A verité-style feature enacting the thinnest possible plot with a supporting cast of 85,000 souls, You Instead, shot in four-and-a-half days amid the muck and clamor of Scotland's T in the Park music festival, offers less pop ecstasy than expected. After a while though, it does find its hook. Commercial potential depends wholly on the art-house cachet of director David Mackenzie, who makes a stark turn here from the darker tales (like Young Adam) that earned him attention.

The story centers on two fictional bands, the Make and the Dirty Pinks, who share stages with such real-life groups as the Proclaimers and Kassidy. (More famous T fest performers, such as Jay-Z, evidently didn't want to be filmed.)

After getting into a vague ego-fueled rumble in the opening scenes, the two bands are forced to co-exist when a mysterious black man -- shades of Spike Lee's "magical negro," he seems to be the only person of color at the event -- appears out of nowhere, handcuffs Adam (Luke Treadaway) from the Make to the Pinks' Morello (Natalia Tena), and runs off to make mischief elsewhere.

Moviegoers looking for action will have to content themselves with that little gesture for quite some time, as much of the following hour or so consists of Adam and Morello wandering festival grounds looking for bolt-cutters. They get on each other's nerves throughout -- in an inarticulate fashion that never threatens to develop into screwball banter -- while Mackenzie cuts away to shots of costumed revelers, texting youths and a poncho-clad sea of humanity pogo-dancing in the rain.

Though it takes forever, Thomas Leveritt's script does eventually gin up enough friction -- mostly through Adam and Morello's jealous lovers, who must awkwardly tag along through the night -- to get us to care about the inevitable spark between the handcuffed duo. Viewers who stick around through meandering scenes of drinking and carnival rides will be rewarded, in the end, by a muddy but creative shower make-out scene and an onstage romantic gesture that even the director admits is "a wee bit cheesy."

At a turning point in the plot, Adam tells Morello's boyfriend "I've known her ten hours, and I know her better than you." If the movie had done anything at all to prove that to us, You Instead could have been a smart music lover's rom-com instead of simply feeling like a movie made on a dare.

Venue: South By Southwest Film Festival, Spotlight Premieres section
Production Company: Sigma Films
Cast: Luke Treadaway, Natalia Tena, Mathew Baynton, Ruta Gedmintas, Gilly Gilchrist, Alastair Mackenzie, Gavin Mitchell, Joseph Mydell, Jonny Phillips, Sophie Wu
Director: David Mackenzie
Screenwriter: Thomas Leveritt
Producer: Gillian Berrie
Executive producers: Malte Grunert, David Mackenzie, Phil Hunt, Compton Ross, Geoff Ellis, Jamie Laurenson, Christine Langan, Robbie Allen, Carole Sheridan
Director of photography: Giles Nuttgens
Production designer: Judi Ritchie
Costume designer: Kelly Cooper Barr
Editor: Jake Roberts
Sales: Bankside Films
No rating, 80 minutes