Paul Hibbard’s review published on Letterboxd:
A beautiful masterful tone poem. Just indulge yourself in the intoxicating rhythms of the music and the pure magic of Steve McQueen's top notch, almost unparalleled skill of filmmaking.
I once read a black film critic call out black filmmakers for making too many movies about black hardships. Sure, he said, films about slavery and civil rights and police brutality are needed, but the overabundance of it amounts to "misery porn" as they could be showing the joys of being black as well. Being a white male, I didn't feel like it was my place to have an opinion on that subject. But observationally, I can see that McQueen, who has been guilty of so called "misery porn" in the past, either heard that criticism or came to the same conclusions himself.
Lovers Rock is the yang to the first movie in his Small Axes series, Mangrove. While that one relished in the pain, this one relishes in the joy. The film is one long mood, very little plot, and just filled with the joys of dancing and music.
But the conflict is still here, looming over. As racist white people were front and center during Mangrove, in Lovers Rock they are more on the periphery. But they are there as just a reminder, not too much of a threat, as this party has got the biggest, meanest looking doorman. No one is getting past him.
While watching, and comparing to Mangrove, the term 'safe space' came to my mind. That is what this house party is. A safe space for minorities who face discrimination and violence in daily life. The term safe space has been mocked over the last few years by some terrible people. The same terrible people who are the 1970s version of the racists in these movies. The people who mock that term would probably never watch a movie with an all-black cast, which is a shame, because they probably need to see it the most. And see how instead of making fun of people using that term, they should evaluate what bigotries inside of them cause spaces like in Lovers Rock to be needed in the first place.