(director/writer: Stephen Kijak; screenwriter: story by Lorianne Hall; cinematographer: Andrew Wheeler; editors: Fabienne Bouville/Yaniv Dabach; music: Rael Jones; cast: Helena Howard (Cleo), Ellar Coltrane (Dean), Elena Kampouris (Sheila), Nick Krause (Billy), James Bloor (Patrick),  Thomas Lennon (Uncle Nick), Joe Manganiello (Full Metal Mickey), Tonatiuh (Brian Briggs), Celin Au (Siouxsie Chu), Abby Awe (Rita), Olivia Luccardi (Sandi), Cameron Moulene (David); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Joe Manganiello, Nick Manganiello, Laura Rister, Adam Schoon, Marco Vicini, Christopher Figg, Lorianne Hall, Phil Hoelting; RLJE Release/Untitled Entertainment; 2021-UK)

“The kids seem sincere and the music is not as bad as I expected.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Brit documentarian Stephen Kijak (“Never Met Picasso”/”Sid & Judy”) shoots the film as director and writer as a tribute to the English band The Smiths and to the teenage fans who loved their music and had to deal with the Manchester band breaking up because their music didn’t sell as well as it should have. The screenplay is sweet and nostalgic, as co-written by Lorianne Hall. The soundtrack is filled with the Smiths music throughout, which should suit those who can’t get enough of their music.

Four teen friends–Cleo (Helena Howard), Sheila
(Elena Kampouris), Patrick (James Bloor) and Billy (Nick Krause)– in the summer of 1987, in Denver, Colo., become despondent when they learn of the breakup of their favorite band, The Smiths, labeled as “the voice of a doomed generation.” It hits the group of friends hard: their leader Cleo, working in a supermarket checkout job, whose ambition is to live in France; the college coed Sheila who wants to have sex with her celibate college student Brit boyfriend Patrick, who attends a different school; and Billy, who plans to escape the local scene by enlisting in the Army. These rocker fans find that the demise of the band signals the end of an era for them.

The plot is divided into two parts. In one part, the mild one, Cleo and friends travel around Denver listening to their favorite band’s music on the radio. The other part, the more radical one, is in how Dean (Ellar Coltrane), who clerks in the record store where Cleo shoplifts and hangs out, comes up with a crazy plan on how to honor the Smiths. The dude shows up at a heavy metal playing radio station with a pistol and takes the DJ “Full Metal” Mickey (
Joe Manganiello) hostage and forces him to play all the Smiths’ music.

Apparently a rowdy Smiths fan planned on doing this in real life but never followed through.

The limited comedy could have used a little more High Fidelity heft in its storytelling, but I guess this is their story and the kids seem sincere and the music is not as bad as I expected (hardly a compliment, but rather a flippant opinion).


REVIEWED ON 4/10/2021  GRADE: C+