Even within the conventional nature of romantic-comedies I will give any one a shot. Most follow the same formula: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. That’s been known since 1934 when It Happened One Night created the blueprint, and even when it is wished for rom-coms to change it up once in a while it very rarely happens. You Instead (or Tonight You’re Mine in the American market) wants to be different, it wants to be original, but snaps right back into formation once you get a sense that you might have something new on your hands.
Having been to concerts before, going to a music festival was always something I wanted to do, but just haven’t yet. If there was one thing You Instead does best it is building that urge to experience the environment of listening to music with 85,000 other people. Set and filmed at the 2010 T in the Park, pop-singers Adam (Luke Treadway) and Morello (Natalia Tena) are handcuffed together for 24 hours where they both must perform. I’m sure you can imagine where this goes. The idea would not be a bad one if screenwriter Thomas Leveritt did something fresh other than building a generic romance around this mishap, but unfortunately that does not happen and what does shows how bored the genre is itself.
The two leads have fine chemistry, but the film begins void of any knowledge of the characters, as if the audience were handcuffed to them as well. But without said insight the film attempts to witlessly create development half way through to create reversals. Adam is seeing model Lake, while Morello is dating Mark; and when the moment comes to face the facts that their feelings don’t add up you receive this horrid line of, “I can’t do this again.” Do what again? We never really know, but Leveritt thinks his audience can draw conclusions in a semi-intellectual way. However, when You Instead drops convention and holds these two characters on their own, it works better than not.
There is beautiful cinematography from Giles Nuttgens who shoots T in the Park with style, with the lights of the Ferris wheel flashing and the festival visitors drinking and screaming with joy. The best aspects are these moments of gorgeous filming of everyday people exploring the festival. Being shot on location, most of the scenes are “real” in the sense that you have the actors doing their jobs around oblivious people. That level of knowledge is an interesting one and manages to hold the film for those simple sequences, but collapses the moment the plot comes to fruition.
Having a lone throughline that experiments with on-location shooting would have worked much better than what we actually receive. While you have the Adam and Morello handcuff situation you also have Adam’s fellow band member Tyko and manager Bobby who go on their own adventure of drunkard women hunting. Each time the film takes a moment to come back to these two side characters it feels like a trudge to go anywhere. To some extent you are growing with Adam and Morello; but when it comes to these two egocentric lowlifes, you feel nothing other than time wasted. Not to mention Tyko has a half-baked love interest which doesn’t turn out the way he wants, but at that point we really don’t care.
With a film set at a music festival you would expect the music to be memorable, or peak your interest to look up some new bands. This is not the case other than The Proclaimer’s “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” because we’ve heard it in pop culture hundreds of times. Don’t get me wrong, the music isn’t unbearable, but it never feels part of the film other than a tool. Think of the experience of watching this movie like you would watching Project X. You follow characters you don’t really care about through the craziest party in recent memory, but then you come back on acknowledging that you aren’t there, actually having fun. That is kind of the essence of You Instead. The festival looks like an endless amount of fun, but you can’t physically live it.
When it comes to films like You Instead I tend to recommend it depending on overall seizure. There really isn’t anything here you haven’t seen before, couldn’t watch on YouTube, or pay to experience yourself. As a film it is a mess of different plots going almost nowhere, and then realizes it needs closure with the two handcuffed leads and produces the most cliched, final 10 minutes in romantic-comedy history. Some of it is fun to watch, especially with the on-location filming, but as a whole this is a waste, feeling like a vacation for the actors and crew involved.
The Good: interactions with the general public at T in the Park, cinematography, and the leads are fine.
The Bad: not much memorable music, character development is wasted, and missed opportunities.
The Ugly: horrendously self-centered side characters, conventional, and the feeling that you aren’t at the festival.