Ecstasty, raves, Britpop…it’s Britain in the 90s and Simon Rumley’s Strong Language tries to encapsulate the zeitgeist of these times which came to be known as the “Cool Britannia” era. From Damien Hirst to Oasis, the characters in Strong Language discuss the trivialities’ of their lives in these times with the story being told through a collection of interviews. As the film goes on their disjointed narratives start to come together and the horrific story of the main narrator appears, delivering the final, ugly plot twist.
The film features a cast of 16 characters either in their home environment or with a London cityscape backdrop behind them. Their performances are realistic and have a gritty, streetwise quality. As we become acquainting with them, so does a picture of what it means to live in London at this point in time become clear to the viewer. Being young and up and coming of course drugs, sex and culture are their key concerns at this point in their lives. Through their frank talk they shine a lot on hot topics of this era such as the rise of the drug ecstasy and rave culture, the fallout from the AIDS epidemic in the previous decade, popular music trends and all the other things which came to mind when we think of the ‘90s and modern Britain. Their dialogue is realistic and unrestrained, neither condemning nor celebrating them whether it’s racist jibes or honest talk about drug taking, showing us an honest look at social issues framed within an expose of British youth culture.
Of course the characters are fictional despite their believable interviews, meaning this film is a unique blurring between the conventions of the documentary and thriller drama. For those who like dialogue-heavy films this movie should hold great appeal. Unfortunately this merit may also be where others find it flawed. With the narrative only being told through the speech of the characters, a lack of attention to what they’re saying in this film may lose the attention of some viewers. There’s no shift in setting and the narrative, whilst taking a surprise twist as the film goes one, follows a relatively one-path track. While it twists the conventions of the documentary, mockumentary and fictionalised drama, it is confusing to see where exactly it fits within and isn’t quite accomplished enough to transcend these categories and stand alone as an innovative classic.
Despite this though it is refreshing to see a film take a different approach to storytelling methods and this interview-style means the main point of the film (giving the viewer an idea of 1990s British youth culture) isn’t eclipsed by unnecessary plot devices. Overall it is an engaging and unique film, having its finger on the pulse of the issues that characterised a significant era, delivered in an original fashion which may find cult following in years to come as viewers stumble upon this rough gem.
Special features for the film include a featurette from the films premiere and its trailer.
Director: Simon Rumley / Country: United Kingdom / Year: 2000 /Studio: MVD Visual / Run Time: 80 Mins