Bryn Higgins’ Access All Areas is like a teenage fantasy – featuring a woe is me protagonist with the whole world seemingly plotting against him, carrying the weight of a dark, elusive past, who can now be found swigging straight from the bottle, only to then, somehow, meet his musical icon and be lauded for a hidden talent he was just too shy to let out. It’s all well and good to have a film that follows this formula, and focus in a character of this nature – but it’s hard to imagine this appealing to anyone over the age of 18. Adults, in other words.
Newcomer Edward Bluemel plays the aforementioned, undervalued individual Heath, who lives with his unconventional mother Libby (Jo Hartley). He’s been in trouble in the past and so must report to his sort-of-parole-officer, and neighbour, Mack (Nigel Lindsay) who just so happens to be the father of his on/off girlfriend Mia (Ella Purnell). Having to be on his very best behaviour, that’s thrown out the window when Mia steals his bike and heads off to a musical festival, and so he does what he’s always done – he follows. Alongside his friend Leon (Jordan Stephens) the pair embark on a journey of self-discovery, ignoring their parents concerns and having the weekend of their life. Though little do they know, their parents, literally, aren’t far behind them.
Access All Areas does that annoying thing that films about musicians do, which is to allow the viewer to hear the character’s material. It’s nearly always a bad idea (unless you’re David Brent) because it’s nearly always bad, and nearly always devalues the film, and makes you question everything about it. Heath is supposed to be talented, but his music is a bit crap. Just let it be a mystery, in our minds the music could feasibly be as good as we want it to be.
Heath is a character that’s somewhat difficult to invest in too, for he’s just so moody, constantly moping around feeling sorry for himself. Perhaps he would evoke more of the viewer’s sympathy had they played up to his evident anxiety, as he seems to feel lost and claustrophobic in big crowds, and had this been a theme we’d explored deeper then we’d have gone some way in understanding why he is like he is, rather than just watching on as some teenager feels the world is against him. But that’s emblematic of a film that persistently brushes over quite big themes, such as Mia overcoming the death of her mother, or also the fact Libby is evidently in a bad place, but instead portrayed as being merely ‘kooky’. She’s got actual issues.
That said, there is a likeable, charming tone to this movie, so in some regards it’s gratifying not to have that compromised, as a feature that captures that glorious, indefinable sense of spontaneity that a festival experience can bring. That being said, it’s infuriating and unrealistic just how often the characters keep bumping into each other when they’re there. I’ve nipped off for a quick toilet break at Glastonbury and then spent the following three and a half days looking for my friends.
Access All Areas is released on October 20th.