The career of director David Mackenzie has been an unpredictable journey with pronounced highs and miserable lows, but I must admit the man is rarely boring. Hitting solid doubles and triples with features such as “Mister Foe,” “Young Adam,” and “Perfect Sense,” Mackenzie also struck out with a wretched Aston Kutcher drama, “Spread.” His latest, “Tonight You’re Mine” (titled “You Instead” overseas) is an experimental piece about love and connection in the midst of celebratory chaos, and it’s certainly one of his lesser efforts. Improvisational and cold to the touch, the picture is a noble failure, capturing the musty rush of a music festival and all of its madness, with a dreary love story awkwardly wedged into the film, souring the atmosphere.
Taking cameras to the 2010 T in the Park celebration, Mackenzie intends to capture life inside the campgrounds, roaming around the property with his characters, observing casual interactions and drunken humiliations, while numerous band plays in the distance, adding an echoy soundtrack of pop and rock hits to help set the mud-stained, sweatbox mood. Unfortunately, “Tonight You’re Mine” is no documentary. It’s a dramatic feature, with the production dreaming up a plot to follow as a way to discover the festival from a working perspective, as opposed to the fan view most concert films undertake.
There’s a screenplay credited to Thomas Leveritt, but I’m not sure what his contribution to “Tonight You’re Mine” actually consists of. The dialog presented here is largely created on the spot, with the actors working awkwardly to sustain an authenticity to casual discomfort, which soon grows into attraction. The story is painfully contrived, finding the cutesy handcuff twist acting a starter pistol for the introductions of vapid models, backstage break-ups, hook-up hunting, and warming personalities, with the feature too idle to even establish passable cliché. “Tonight You’re Mine” presents itself as a gelatinous blob of rock star cool, extended inebriation (Boaby’s odyssey is thoroughly soaked with beer), and predictable turns of the heart. Mackenzie aims for sweet but it doesn’t take, with the film more rambling than romantic, more coldly manufactured than heartfelt.
Not helping the distancing mood is the central relationship between Adam and Morello. The two characters are surprisingly unpleasant, with their shared bondage more painful for the viewer than for the burgeoning lovers. Mackenzie obviously wants the audience to swim around in the butterflies of new love, but these two come off as inconsiderate children, willing to hurt others to pursue their own duet, which is actually quite literal during concert sequences where Treadaway and Tena show more range and confidence as stage performers. There’s no rooting for this pair when the climax arrives, as they never quite earn the clasp of endearment “Tonight You’re Mine” works to achieve.
With the personalities fried and the romance wilted, there’s still a thick atmosphere of festival fun to enjoy, isolated satisfactorily by the director, who winds around the grounds to grab a full lungful of concertgoers and their chemical and recreational habits. The feel of T in the Park is clearly communicated without the burden of extended performances (the picture is only 73 minutes long). However, by the end of “Tonight You’re Mine,” the hunger for more concert footage lingers, especially after wasting so much screen time on two banal characters and their forced game of love.