You Instead

Natalia Tena and Luke Treadaway star in David Mackenzie’s pleasantly surprising rom com.

Released in cinemas 16th September 2011.

A pleasantly surprising romantic comedy, directed by David Mackenzie and filmed over a five-day period on location at T in the Park in Scotland.

The plot is simple - Adam (Luke Treadaway) is one half of a famous electro-pop indie duo, and Morello (Natalia Tena) is the lead singer of an all-girl post punk band. They meet within minutes of the opening titles, and instantly take a dislike to each other. A mysterious festival organiser arrives and handcuffs the two together, disappearing with the key. It’s a pretty groan-worthy set up, and one which would seem to precede a lot of very obvious jokes which have been done before, but in amongst all this is a heartfelt romantic comedy with real spirit that is hard not to enjoy.

As with any romantically-driven narrative, the two leads are crucial, and Treadaway and Tena do a good job, providing an uneasy chemistry which enables them to occupy involving arcs. The thing that makes it really interesting is that we are not given any chance to get to know the two characters before they meet each other, meaning that as they get to know one another, we too are party to this. It is an unusual direction to take, but an effective one as after a slightly jarring start we do find ourselves invested in their stories. The supporting cast are great fun, with Matt Baynton (known for playing Deano in Gavin and Stacey) putting in a sweet and funny turn as Adam’s bandmate Tyko, and Gavin Mitchell stealing scenes as their drunken manager.

The setting of T in the Park is a lively one, with the almost guerilla-style shoot taking in the vibrancy and energy of a festival, the film’s on-the-fly, almost documentary feel capturing both the frenetic action on stage and the more tender moments which naturally occur at quieter times. This is perfectly illustrated by a calming scene featuring singer/songwriter Jo Mango performing an acoustic set over a montage of all the characters as they go about their wildly varying adventures. There are a number of cameo appearances from artists such as The View and Newton Faulkner which are fun to look out for, and music lovers will find plenty to enjoy here.

The soundtrack of You Instead is perhaps the biggest achievement on show here. Both lead characters are in bands, and are given songs to perform, which were apparently written by the leads themselves. Treadaway in particular does well as he contributes the title track, which we are treated to two versions of. There are obviously a great deal of musical scenes, including an impromptu cover of a well known ’80s floor filler from Treadaway and Tena which will raise a smile.

This is by no means a perfect film though. The script does feel very familiar and clichéd, with the ending in particular being a little too obvious. A little too often the action takes a predictable direction, but to be fair these criticisms are being made of a film which was shot over an extremely constricted period of time in a very challenging location. It was clearly a difficult production, and the end result works out a lot better than it should have, clunky plot or not. The bottom line here is that the film ticks the two important boxes with an engaging romance and enough laughs to keep the audience entertained throughout its running time - at 80 minutes it certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome.

You Instead, then, gets over an initially uninteresting premise and slightly slow start through the depiction of an original and funny romance. The cast put in fun performances, and the setting is bound to give music lovers plenty to enjoy. Mackenzie is a talented director who always manages to give an original take on romance - look out for his next release, Perfect Sense, out in October.

Rating: 7/10