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Human Traffic (1999)
Human Traffic is a British independent film written and directed by Welsh filmmaker Justin Kerrigan. The film explores themes of coming of age, drug and club cultures, as well as relationships. It includes scenes provoking social commentary and the use of archive footage to provide political commentary. The plot of the film revolves around five twenty-something friends and their wider work and social circle, the latter devotees of the club scene, taking place over the course of a drug-fuelled weekend in Cardiff, Wales. A central feature is the avoidance of moralising about the impact of 1990s dance lifestyle; instead the film concentrates on recreating the "vibe, the venues and the mood" of the dance movement from the 1991 "summer of love" to the film's release in 1999. In the first 25 minutes of the film Lee, the 17 year old brother of central character Nina, enthuses "I am about to be part of the chemical generation" and lists, using the slang of the period, a series of drugs that he might experiment with later that night. The film is narrated by one of the stars, John Simm, featuring numerous cameo appearances.
The film follows five Brits in their young twenties during a wild weekend of parties, drugs, dancing, sex, pop culture discussions, relationships, and wanking off in front of a mirror while mum interrupts. The cast of character consists of Jip (John Simm), our narrator, who has a bit of a problem with his willy, known as Mr. Floppy. Koop (Shaun Parkes), our black DJ maestro, who has insecurity issues, afraid his girlfriend Nina (Nicola Reynolds) is shagging other men. Nina herself can't stand her McJob and longs for the freedom of the weekends. Lulu (Lorraine Pilkington), Jip's best mate, is tired of her cheating boyfriends. And Moff (Danny Dyer) can't seem to escape the black hole of his awful life. The film follows these five individuals during one weekend as each of them discovers love, friendship, and self-fulfillment, all against the raging party background.
Human Traffic is proof that cinema can still tell us deep stories while being visually alive, as director Justin Kerrigan's subtle use of the camera lets the audience become part of the action. The use of direct communication to the audience by the collection of characters works well, making the viewer the subconscious mind for the characters. Dialogue is crisp and moves with an even pace, and the acting is confident. However, the two females leads tend to promote their relationships and dialogue with a bit of unneeded urgency that shows through when poignancy is needed.
Human Traffic does not try to explain the rave scene. Instead, it gives the audience the ability to listen to the people inside it, letting you choose your own convictions about this powerful musical movement that brings together strangers, friends, and lovers for one blissful night of music and peace.