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Human Traffic   B

Miramax Films

Year Released: 1999 (USA: 2000)
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Justin Kerrigan
Writer: Justin Kerrigan
Cast: John Simm, Lorraine Pilkington, Shaun Parkes, Danny Dyer, Nicola Reynolds, Dean Davies, Justin Kerrigan.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

One question: Why the hell are critics comparing this movie to Trainspotting and Go? To American critics, I guess the Trainspotting comparisons seem valid because the characters have funny British accents and do lots of drugs. The Go comparisons are likely spewing out because both films feature a rave. Okay, but so what?

Human Traffic shows us one weekend in the lives of five UK pals. For 48 hours every week, they're allowed to break away from the monotony of their demeaning and low-paying nine-to-fives. Like our main character Jip (John Simm) says, "All that exists now is dubs, drugs, pubs, and parties...we're gonna get more spaced out than Neil Armstrong ever did." And that, they do.

Let's meet the characters, shall we?

Jip is currently suffering from a sexual paranoia of sorts, resulting in "Mr. Floppy" whenever he's about to get really intimate with a girl. Jip's mom is a prostitute, and whenever he goes to visit her, he usually has to sit downstairs and wait while she finishes up with a client. Jip has been friends with Lulu (Lorraine Pilkington) for years, but she can't seem to find a decent guy anywhere. Koop (Shaun Parkes) is a wanna-be DJ who gets madly jealous every time his girlfriend Nina (Nicola Reynolds) so much as talks to another guy. Moff (Danny Dyer) is unemployed and uses drugs to ignore the fact that he's on a road to nowhere.

Their weekend will consist of getting high, going to a rave and a party, and coping with the day after. Friendships will be reevaluated, discoveries made, and one or more of them may come to a conclusion that may push their life into a new direction. Yes, yes, you've seen this kind of plotless youth-driven storyline many times before -- Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused immediately comes to mind -- but Human Traffic has a joyful exuberance that makes it wonderfully enjoyable despite its familiarity (or maybe even because of it). And it doesn't hurt that the cast is immensely likable, either.

First-time writer-director Justin Kerrigan spices up the proceedings with some excitingly surreal flourishes. The morning after a night of partying, for instance, Moff is forced to sit through a meal with his family and he imagines that he can fastforward and rewind his jabbering parents with a remote control.

The friendships in Human Traffic are realistic, funny, and even touching. You don't get to know some of the characters here as well as you'd like to, but it sure is fun hanging out with them.

Review published 05.19.2000.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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