Steve Mcqueen hits home with his “Small Axe” series
Steve McQueen directs five powerful films that feature stories that must be heard.
When it comes to making critically acclaimed films, Steve McQueen is able to do so while weaving in realistic social nuances of our society. With his new “Small Axe” series on Amazon Prime, he touches on stories that range from heartfelt and sensual to devastating and eye-opening.
Comprised of five original films, the small Axe series takes place from the 1960s to mid-1980s and is set in the backdrop of London’s West Indian community whose lives are impacted by racial tension and discrimination. The idea of this series is to provide marginalized communities a platform to showcase the very relatable stories that come from them. I will be looking at a few that really stood out to me.
It’s the 1980s and the neighborhood DJ’s are setting up for a fun night of dancing and mingling. However, racial tensions and violence are within the midst of this fun night. As the night progresses, relationships intertwine.
“For lovers and Rockers,” this film is essentially McQueen’s love letter to the 80’s party scene. “Lover’s Rock” is a cozy film in which most of its duration is set in one house party. It follows Martha Trenton, played by Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn.
“Lover’s Rock” is great because unlike the other films in the series — which are based on real life events — it decides to leave the viewer with a more foreboding tone. It takes the harsh racial tensions that can be found in the other films and puts them in the backseat to give viewers a moment to vibe along to smooth caribbean ensembles.
With that being said, the sound mixing in this film is incredibly impressive as the dialogue is never drowned out too much by the music. During these moments however, not a lot of plot progression occurs, which might leave some viewers wanting a little more towards the end.
This isn’t to say that the film doesn’t have its tense moments. The racial tensions that can be found in the movie are sprinkled throughout and create a sense of uneasiness whenever the characters leave the “safety” of the house party. It especially points out how toxic masculinity can ruin a good time and is able to be found in any community. So, even being within the confines of the house party, safety is not guaranteed. Despite these moments of uneasiness, the film always brings the viewer back to the very heart of the film’s purpose; to enjoy life with what you have.
“Lover’s Rock” will leave viewers to vibe in its most exciting moments and on edge in between its sensual ones. It will be the best house party you’ve ever been to since 2019.
“Red, White and Blue”
Amidst the racial tensions in west London, police brutality runs rampant throughout the West Indian communities. Leroy Logan — played by John Boyega — decides to join the police force despite having a PHD in science. After his father became a victim of police brutality, he decided that it was up to him to make a difference.
However, things don’t get much better when he joins the force and he must navigate through both the worlds of white supremacy and his own community.
Based on true events, “Red, White and Blue” is a shift from the laid backness of “Lover’s Rock” and thrusts viewers into the harsher realities of marginalized communities and their fight against police brutality.
John Boyega steals the show in this film. It expertly showcases the actor’s range when it comes to a demanding role such as this one. Boyega gives an impassioned performance playing Leroy Logan that will have viewers sharing his frustrations having to deal with working for a system that doesn’t care for you.
As the runtime is rather short at roughly 80 minutes, the engaging story will leave some viewers wanting more. I would have liked to see more of the relationships between Logan and his community before he joined the police force. It also ends a bit abruptly which leaves several very important questions and themes unanswered and open.
All in all, the “Small Axe” film series is a must watch as it tells stories from a more marginalized perspective in which no matter what background you come from, you can find yourself identifying with these films in a myriad of ways.
Availability: Amazon Prime
Title: Small Axe
Star Rating: Four and a half stars out of five
- Stories that anyone can relate to
- Beautifully shot and well casted
- Powerful Messages in each story
- Some of the the stories end too abruptly
- Some of the films might be too slow for some