We’re currently smack-bang in the middle of festival season, when the BBC devotes the majority of its weekend screen time to festival coverage and all the high street fashion stores are filled to bursting with the types of shorts & tops that British Summer time weather just cannot sustain. That makes the premiere of Access All Areas incredibly timely and, with our current sporadic bursts of sun, all the more absorbing.
The majority of the film was shot on location at Bestival (although rechristened the in-film name of ‘Isle of Sounds’). A similar filmic escapade was undertaken in 2011 with the David Mackenzie (he of last year’s vastly under-appreciated Hell or High Water) helmed Tonight You’re Mine. That film was shot at ‘T in the Park’ and focused on the love-at-first-hate romantic pairing of Luke Treadaway (A Streetcat Named Bob) and Natalia Tena (Tonks in Harry Potter).
Although Access All Areas may have a similarly trope-tastic storyline (an unlikely rag-tag group escaping everyday life and in the process discovering themselves) the logistical feat they have accomplished is just as impressive. Just imagine what on-goings they had to navigate and negotiate to get a film as smooth looking & feeling as this! Access All Areas encaptures the feel of the festival, the strange sights, sounds and chaos, yet lets this atmosphere flows as opposed to it being unleashed upon the audience. It has an almost-end-of-summer feel (unsurprising perhaps as Bestival tends to take place at the start of September), the feeling of coming to the end of adolescence and reaching the crossroads of the next chapter.
Bluemel is excellent as aspiring musician Heath. He subtly manages to convey his many-layered emotions towards his rather dysfunctional relationship with his rather dysfunctional mum, Libby (Hartley). Having previously seen Hartley as rather conventional laced-up mother figures in This Is England & Eddie The Eagle it’s great to see her unleashed and throwing herself into the role of hippy mum. She’s fully believable as a slightly damaged figure who feels unable to fully be the mum Heath needs her to be. In turn Heath is forced into a role-reversal, regularly playing the parent when Libby puts herself in risky situations. The greatest act of rebellion a child of a rebel can take is by not rebelling at all – but in Heath’s case he’s not really living at all.
Mia (Purrell, a recognisable face after stealing the show as Emma in Miss Peregrine’s…) may just be the person to help Heath, except she’s currently lost in her own problems after her mum’s death from cancer. If Heath and his mum are brought somewhat closer by their problems then Mia and her dad, Mack (Lindsay) rebel each other like magnets whilst lost in the midst of their grief. Going to the festival acts as the distraction both Heath and Mia need yet it will also force them to ‘eat their fears’ – a catchphrase repeatedly echoed by Heath’s best friend Leon (played by Stephens, of Rizzle Kicks fame).
The film breezes along at a nice pace, a festival pace – not quite rushing but never too still for long. Momentous things happen at the pace and regularity they seem to when you’re 18 – on the cusp of everything and nothing at exactly the same time. Access All Areas excels at capturing that mood, that feeling of wistfulness & anxiety & the growing uneasy awareness that your parents are simply ‘grown-up children’. It’s a film about festivals, friendship and finding oneself – not a bad way to spend 90 minutes.
Dir: Bryn Higgins
Scr: Oliver Veysey
Cast: Edward Bluemel, Ella Purnell, Georgie Henley, Jordan Stephens, Arnas Fedaravicius, Nigel Lindsay, Bobby Lockwood, Jo Hartley,Phil Daniels.
Prd: Andrew Chapman, Bill Curbishley, Oliver Veysey.
DOP: Tony Slater Ling
Music: Roger Goula Sarda
Run time: 94 minutes
Access All Areas is screening at Hackney Picturehouse on Saturday 1st July.