Home » ‘Lover’s Rock’ Review – Steve McQueen’s Loving and Soulful Music Fest | NYFF 2020

‘Lover’s Rock’ Review – Steve McQueen’s Loving and Soulful Music Fest | NYFF 2020

by Ben Rolph

Lover’s Rock, part of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology series, is lovingly told without a conventional narrative. As its title suggests, it’s about love and rockers, a combined niche that has perhaps been too absent from popular culture. It tells a singular story in McQueen’s anthology that explores the Black British experience, and if Lover’s Rock is a taste of what’s left, one must be in for a cinematic treat. More importantly, a chance to traverse such pivotal stories hidden from the outer world.

A wild night of dance and a whole load of soul music come together to form a riveting tale of wonder and intimacy. The lack of narrative tissue is welcomed, it’s almost a Soul Train-like experience as guests dance freely to the ever-lasting list of R&B, reggae, and soul hits. The film’s dedication to “all lovers and rockers” is a perfect summary.

Lover’s Rock homes in on Black love and music. We follow Martha (Amarah-Jae St Aubyn) as she attends a London-based party in the early 1980’s, where she meets a fellow party-goer (Micheal Ward). The music that defined a whole generation of West Indian Londoners are heard and felt in this groovy junction.

‘Lover’s Rock’ still courtesy of NYFF

A 68-minute celebration of music and romance, it’s a liberating and freeing tale that will leave a mark. First-time actor Amarah-Jae St Aubyn brings her all as the charming Martha, which McQueen constructs the swoon-worthy perspective around. The slithers of narrative that make it a film rather than just a pure exploration of moving bodies, dance, and profound music are all encapsulated by Martha’s growing love and conflict at the party.

Beautifully colored and lit by Skate Kitchen cinematographer Shabier Kirchner, his skill truly shines in the engrossing beats of the party. Warm, potent, and tungsten-filled coloring are a constant joy to gaze upon. Beauty is found in his ability to adapt to the story’s needs. Although, a little rough to begin, its at the party where Kirchner finds his rhythm and style.

Lover’s Rock is a beautiful exploration of, well, love and rockers – delving brilliantly into a culture and movement mostly untold in the media. A joyous ode to Black British and West Indian culture, indulging in Steve McQueen’s latest is simply intoxicating.


Lover’s Rock is part of BBC’s Small Axe and will open the 2020 New York Film Festival!

More on Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology!

Follow senior film critic Ben Rolph on Twitter: @THEDCTVSHOW

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