Review by Akiva Gottlieb
3½ stars out of 4
At a screening of "Human Traffic" in the United Kingdom, writer/director
Justin Kerrigan received a compliment that states exactly why his film
is successful in so many different ways. A 65-year-old man left the
screening, nearly in tears, proclaiming "God! I wish I was young again!"
"Human Traffic" is not a great movie, but it taps into the zeitgeist of
the many young people who try their hardest to truly "live".
That these people are heavily into hallucinogenic drugs is not a subject
Kerrigan shies away from. "Human Traffic" will, without a doubt, be
compared to the similarly fast-paced Scottish import "Trainspotting", a
film which many believe to have glamorized heroin use. "Human Traffic",
which is also becoming a cult-classic in the U.K., examines "the most
dominant youth culture there's ever been in Britain, bigger than the
rockers, the hippies, the Mods," according to Kerrigan. This is a
culture where Ecstasy (or "E") is the drug of choice. Yes, I am talking
"Human Traffic" focuses on the lives of a cross-section of Welsh
twenty-somethings who use the weekend rave parties to find meaning in
their aimless lives. They spend every hour of their dead-end jobs
looking forward to the pleasures that the weekend promises. This film is
about such a weekend, and the pleasures are as much the viewer's as they
are the characters'.
Our guide is Jip (John Simm), an energetic type who is coming to grips
with the fact that he is in love with his friend Lulu (Lorraine
Pilkington), and that he suffers from an acute case of "sexual
paranoia". His best friend Koop (Shaun Parkes) suspects that his
faithful girlfriend Nina (Nicola Reynolds) is cheating on him with
numerous partners, and his buddy Moff (Danny Dyer) is always looking to
have fun to rebel against an upper-class upbringing.
Without following a visible plotline, "Human Traffic" goes through the
motions of a weekend in Rave culture. Late Friday night, the group heads
off to a rave where they dance, take drugs, and search for the meaning
of life. After the rave there is a party where they dance, take drugs
and discuss how "Star Wars" is a dissection of life as a junkie.
Cleverly, Kerrigan's inventive and stylish film also portrays the
uncomfortable aftermath of any Rave weekend: the comedown. By showing
the consequences of such a weekend, Kerrigan proves to not be
glamorizing the culture, or drugs itself.
Justin Kerrigan claims that he made "Human Traffic" because this culture
is the one he grew up on, and he felt qualified to make a film based on
his experience. In the film, he doesn't try to make excuses for why
today's youth are hooked on drugs, or paint negative stereotypes of such
youth. Instead, he is trying to provide a Woody Allen-type insight into
a generation that takes drugs, but doesn't resort to violence. Drugs are
just a part of their weekend routine.
"Human Traffic" is hardly groundbreaking (infact, last year's "Go" and
this year's upcoming "Groove" both focus on similar topics in the same
culture), but it is an excellent movie because it really understands how
much fun life can be. Kerrigan's characters are the type who just say
"yes!". They know that mixing a bit of fantasy into their reality may be
illegal, but to them, its also a risk worth taking.
Copyright © 1999 Akiva Gottlieb