Lovers Rock (2020 film)

Lovers Rock is a 2020 romance film directed by Steve McQueen and co-written by McQueen and Courttia Newland. It stars Micheal Ward and Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn as two lovers who meet at a reggae house party in 1980 in West London.[1] The film was released as part of the anthology series Small Axe on BBC One on 22 November 2020 and Amazon Prime Video on 27 November 2020. It premiered as an opening film at the 58th New York Film Festival on 24 September 2020.

Lovers Rock
Directed bySteve McQueen
Screenplay by
Produced by
  • Anita Overland
  • Michael Elliott
CinematographyShabier Kirchner
Edited by
Music byMica Levi
Distributed by
Release date
  • 24 September 2020 (2020-09-24) (NYFF)
  • 22 November 2020 (2020-11-22) (United Kingdom)
  • 27 November 2020 (2020-11-27) (United States)
Running time
68 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • United States


  • Micheal Ward as Franklyn Cooper
  • Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn as Martha Trenton
  • Kedar Williams-Stirling as Clifton
  • Shaniqua Okwok as Patty
  • Ellis George as Cynthia
  • Francis Lovehall as Reggie
  • Daniel Francis-Swaby as Bammy
  • Alexander James-Blake as Parker B
  • Kadeem Ramsay as Samson
  • Romario Simpson as Lizard
  • Jermaine Freeman as Skinner
  • Marcus Fraser as Jabba
  • Saffron Coomber as Grace
  • Frankie Fox as Eddie Marks
  • Dennis Bovell as Milton


The film was selected for the 2020 Cannes Film Festival alongside Mangrove, but the Festival was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[2] The film later premiered at the 2020 New York Film Festival, which was held virtually, alongside Mangrove and Red, White and Blue.[3][4] It screened at the 64th BFI London Film Festival on 18 October 2020.[5] It premiered on BBC One and became available for streaming on BBC iPlayer in the United Kingdom on 15 November 2020,[1] and became available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video in the United States on 20 November.[6]


"Lovers rock" was the name of a musical genre popular around the mid-1970s in London, but its influences were transatlantic, as were its reaches.[7] The film is named after the genre and plays some of the most popular songs throughout the movie, such as "Silly Games" by Janet Kay. The genre, which coupled the heavy reggae baselines popular in Jamaican music, and the soft-soul vocal harmonies originating in Chicago and Philadelphia's R&B scenes, forged unique spaces of freedom common in young Black people of the time whose families were immigrants.[7][8] This musical influence across space and between diaspora communities represented what Paul Gilroy theorized as the "Black Atlantic", a culture that exists outside of nation-state boundaries.[9]

Critical responseEdit

Review aggregator Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 95 out of 100, based on 27 critics, indicating "universal acclaim."[10] On Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 98% based on 103 reviews, with an average rating of 8.79/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "A singular viewing experience that perfectly captures a moment in time, Lovers Rock is a lovingly-crafted ode to Black joy."[11] The entire Small Axe anthology was nominated for Best Miniseries or Television Film at the 78th Golden Globe Awards.[12]

Angelica Bastién of called Lovers Rock "undoubtedly one of the best movies of the year...a transfixing romance not just between the two characters at its center but one about the beauty of the human body, the succor of an energetic party, and the possibility in the hush of a night."[13]

The film appeared on several critics' top ten lists of best films from 2020.[14]


  1. ^ a b "Small Axe - Lovers Rock". Media Centre. 16 November 2020. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  2. ^ Scott, Sheena. "'Small Axe': 5 Films On Black British Culture Coming To Amazon Prime". Forbes. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  3. ^ Chang, Justin (12 October 2020). "Even from home, this year's New York Film Festival was a virtual celebration of cinema's power". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  4. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (3 August 2020). "New York Film Festival Sets Steve McQueen's 'Lovers Rock' For Opening Night; Drive-Ins, Virtual Showings To Supplement Possible Lincoln Center Screenings". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  5. ^ Ritman, Alex (23 September 2020). "Steve McQueen's 'Lovers Rock' Added to London Film Festival". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  6. ^ Wilkinson, Alissa (19 November 2020). "A guide to Steve McQueen's Small Axe, the greatest film series you'll see this year". Vox. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  7. ^ a b Black popular music in Britain since 1945. Jon Stratton, Nabeel Zuberi. Farnham, Surrey, England. 2014. ISBN 978-1-4094-6914-8. OCLC 894170872.CS1 maint: others (link)
  8. ^ "Lovers' Rock: An Interview with John Goto". The Oxford Culture Review. 23 December 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  9. ^ Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. p. 4.
  10. ^ "Lovers Rock Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  11. ^ "Lovers Rock (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  12. ^ "Small Axe". Golden Globe Awards. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  13. ^ Angelica Jade Bastién (27 November 2020). "Small Axe Is a Revelation". Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  14. ^ Dietz, Jason (9 January 2020). "Best of 2020: Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Retrieved 11 January 2021.

External linksEdit