Music festivals are generally a messy business. Mud, booze, dodgy burgers, and a strange sense of camaraderie with complete strangers, all rolled into one. However, it’s very difficult to being any real authenticity to putting this on film without it seeming contrived, or that it’s been made by someone who has never so much as been to a festival, let alone camped at one for a whole weekend. So you can imagine my trepidation going into You Instead, a film not only set at a festival, but a romantic comedy to boot.
You Instead follows Adam (Treadaway), lead singer of electro band The Make, and Morello (Tena), singer with The Dirty Pinks – two musicians who dislike each other intensely, ending up tethered together by handcuffs whilst at the T in the Park festival. They have to do everything together, including play on stage, and sleep with their respective partners, and they soon realise they have more in common than they thought.
It goes without saying that You Instead deserves some credit for innovation. The film is shot at a real festival, using improvised performances as the actors interact with normal festival goers. Director David McKenzie has also managed to give a real sense of the scale of a music festival, and this helps it feel more genuine and less forced. It feels like watching people at a music festival, helped hugely by the handheld camera work.
Tena and Treadaway do both look and act the part as the musical leads, and have some excellent chemistry. However, both characters come across as shallow and self centred, and difficult to like. The tediously named Morello particularly so, if nothing else simply due to continued brat-like behaviour and her treatment of her boyfriend, who for all intensive purposes has done nothing to deserve it. This makes it hard to sympathise with her, even though as an audience we are clearly intended to.
The plot of You Instead has plenty of holes. There is little explanation as to why the two main characters are handcuffed, other than it being the work of a crazy preacher running amok. There also seems to be little reason why the singer of a band headlining the main stage at major festival would be mingling with the normal customers and not solely drinking and dancing in the VIP areas. They are small details, but details that should have been addressed.
Despite its problems, for the majority of the film You Instead is actually quite enjoyable, surprisingly. It has a warm and jaunty tone, and is genuinely quite funny in parts. A special mention should go to Gavin Mitchell as Adam’s manager Bobby, and Matthew Baynton as Tyko, who provide some much needed comedy relief. However, despite avoiding them throughout most of it’s duration, in the much rushed final twenty minutes, the film falls frustratingly into the clichés of the Rom-com, and ends in the most predictably eye rolling fashion, destroying all the good work the film had done up to that point, and leaving a sour, but not unfamiliar taste in the audience’s mouth.