An all conquering tale of on-screen love

Laddered tights and all-enduring love played out in the mesmerising documentary film Love Is All at Mareel last night.

Kim Longinotto’s masterful composition of archive clips was paired neatly with the rich, cinematic arrangements of revered Sheffield crooner Richard Hawley.

Speedily pulled together in only six weeks for the Sheffield Film Festival, Love Is All proved a journey, not simply through time, but the different kinds of love so many of us encounter.

The love of a mother, a passionate embrace, dancing toe to toe on a ballroom floor, or an inexplicable, magical glance, like the world momentarily stopped turning – all rolled out in black and white and momentary bursts of colour.

Love is a constant and it runs through the heart of the footage. Both in different contexts and guises, shining through the grime and dirt of industrial Britain and soaring way beyond racial prejudice and homophobia.

The playful, grainy Victorian footage was brought to life with Hawley’s swooning baritone, with the darker themes of abortion, lust and betrayal bringing menacing, distorted guitar tones and Hawley growling the lead lines.

“There’s a storm coming,” sang Hawley, as it echoed over the death of an enchanting and glamorous dancer, shot by her lover’s jealous partner in her dressing room.

Longinotto said Hawley’s music brought new meaning to the archive footage, having met in The Greystones pub in Sheffield the pair hit it off from there.

As a fan of Hawley’s music, I found the pairing brought a new poignancy to his records.

Lyrically Hawley pulls no emotional punches, there’s an ability to see the romance in the every day, a gift to pluck out magic from the seemingly mundane – “On a vandalised bus seat, oh I’d sit with you anywhere” had me smiling at the familiarity of late nights in my hometown of Barnsley.

Rarely were there words spoken between characters on the screen, though the brief interjections were considered and cutting, like the mother refusing to let her daughter bring her boyfriend into the house because of the colour of his skin, or a young woman being called “a slut” and her hopes crushed by a mysterious mother on the end of a phone line who warned her son was soon to be married to another.

Longinotto said making the film was “like a little voyage of discovery”.

So was having the privilege to watch it.

• A review of Richard Hawley’s concert in Mareel follows soon.


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