Dir: Brian Welsh With: Cristian Ortega, Lorn Macdonald, Laura Fraser FROM his controversial first feature Sex, Lies, and Videotape, to shooting an entire film on an iPhone, Steven Soderbergh is a filmmaker who likes to lead from the front. But even for this Hollywood maverick, backing a film about the rave scene in 1990s Scotland seems a little, well, niche.

Then again, Beats, which closed the Glasgow Film Festival last night, is a picture that goes all out on everything, from music to performances, and mostly hits the mark. You can see why Soderbergh would have admired its energy and been enthusiastic enough to become an executive producer.

Remembering the Arches

Beats began life in 2012 as an award-winning play by Kieran Hurley, who co-wrote the screenplay with Scots director Brian Welsh (In Our Name, Glasgow Girls). Set in 1994 against the backdrop of a government crack down on the illegal rave scene, it is the story of best friends Johnno and Spanner (Cristian Ortega and Lorn Macdonald).

The pair, pals since boyhood, are about to go their separate ways now Johnno and his family, including mum’s new boyfriend, a policeman, are moving off the West Lothian council estate and into their own home. Spanner, unemployed, terrorised by his drug dealer brother, and with no other family around to protect him, does not look like he is going anywhere.

Time for one last hurrah at an illegal rave, but will Johnno and Spanner make it, and will the police stop by too?

Welsh shoots in black and white, giving his film an air of stylised grittiness. Otherwise, the tale of youths and blighted lives is a familiar one, especially in Scotland, and for a long time Beats seems like many a movie you have seen before, albeit this one, with a montage on Scotland’s industrial decline, is more political than most. The film’s big scene is the rave itself. For those who were part of the culture it might bring back fond memories, but I’m afraid this reviewer found the strobing visuals almost impossible to watch.

Jonah Hill interviewed on festival opener, Mid90s

The obvious comparison will be with Trainspotting, but Beats is more of a coming of age drama about the bonds of friendship than a helter skelter caper. It has a lot more heart, too, than Danny Boyle’s picture. Best of all, it has Lorn Macdonald, acting his three for a pound sports socks off as Spanner, a good kid dealt a very bad hand by life. Macdonald, a Royal Conservatoire graduate, is terrific from start to finish. Remember the name.