Access All Areas – EIFF 2017

Access all Areas is a film that manages to encapsulate in two hours the atmosphere and energy of a music festival, a story wrapped in music which takes you out of the real world, at least for a short time.

The central characters are the ones that help the audience gain “access” to all the areas of the festival and paint this colorful story set in England in the last days of summer. After loosing her mother to cancer, Mia (Ella Purnell) started living life without any boundaries, drinking and getting into trouble, all to her father’s concern. Therefore, it is no surprise that the moment which kick-starts the narrative is when she decides to go the “Isle of Sounds” and, in consequence, steals her neighbor’s motorcycle, having as an accomplice her best friend Natalie (Georgie Henley). The unfortunate neighbor is Heath (Edward Bluemel), a young aspiring musician with a troubled mother and a problematic relationship with the local police, who is assigned by his boss (Mia’s father) to keep an eye on his daughter and accompany her everywhere. Heath decides to grant Leon’s (his best friend) wish and go with him and the girls to the music festival where Kurtz, an artist that vanished more than a decade ago, is rumored to be one of the performers.

The entire film is packed with a vast array of songs that teleport the viewer straight in the middle of Bestival (it was actually shot on location during the festival), where the experiences exceed expectations and the unplanned is the actual rule of the land. With strobe lights, multiple stages, tents, crazy crowds, drugs, alcohol, and an overall sense of unlimited freedom, Access All Areas is more than the normal teenage comedy drama, managing not to be too over the top in its story development. The performances are also key elements that help construct the charming atmosphere of the film. Ella Purnell, who we previously saw in movies like Never Let Me Go, Maleficent and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, succeeds at playing the broken hearted rebellious teenager. Edward Bluemel does a great job in his first film performance, playing a young musician that is neither too cocky, nor too shy and who does not fit into the stereotypical image of living the “sex, drugs and rock and roll” life, being in fact the most responsible one out the entire group. It is the director’s, Bryn Higgins, second breakaway from the world of television in which he is very well known for various series, documentaries and films. He skillfully manages to present the vibrant atmosphere of the festival, while developing interesting characters and keeping the comedic element alive from beginning to end.

Access All Areas has something for anyone, whether you’re interested in music, comedy or just a good time. It has charm, wit and heart and for this the two hours spent watching it is really not a waste of time.

★★★ and a half.

Diana Dumitrescu