Ethan Lyon’s review published on Letterboxd:
1st Steve McQueen
Been meaning to get around to Small Axe, especially considering it was rated so highly in the BFI's end of 2020 poll. Since Lovers Rock was top overall, I decided to start here and bounce around to which ones seemed to interest me most, as is my way with anything loose and anthology style. Did I miss things? Probably, but the fun will come in tying the elements together. In any case, Lovers Rock deserves the top spot, being a thoroughly enjoyable hang-out movie and a brilliant encapsulation of Caribbean culture in the UK during the 1970s. Taking place largely over a single night in a single house, it tells of a birthday party complete with amazing dub music and goat curry. Here, initial flirtations blossom, violence erupts and people get down to some cracking tracks. It reminds me, in places, of Dazed and Confused; similar timeframe, similar emphasis on a period soundtrack. They even end in the same way, with the lead character in their bed, smiling to themselves. I really like these sorts of films, their laid-back energy and emphasis on connections made between new people.
I didn't really go to house parties when I was at uni (maybe four or five overall); I don't like loud music and anything raucous, but there was always the exciting possibility of making a new connection, and anything that celebrates that always gets my vote. Martha and Franklyn are a charming couple, and Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn, who plays Martha, is a real standout in only her first screen role. She captures that very specific accent associated with 70s British/Caribbean immigrants, one foot still on the Island and the other in East London, absolutely perfectly. It's a lovely celebration of Black Britishness by a Black British filmmaker, with all the little touches and flairs associated with an intimate knowledge of the subject. It feels authentic and lived in.
And if the soundtrack is good enough to get me dancing alone in the living room, then it must be worth it. Definitely gonna check out the rest of the films now.