Quadrophenia 1979 Spoiler Free Movie Review

Quadrophenia [1979] is the film adaptation of The Who’s rock opera by the same name from 1979. The film was directed by Franc Roddam and stars a large cast of young actors including Phil Daniels, Leslie Ash, and Ray Winstone among others.

 The Rock Opera Stylings Are Surprisingly Light. This being the film counterpart to The Who’s rock opera, one would expect heavy musical influences to be heard all throughout the film. This both is and isn’t the case. The musical sequences, while great, are notably absent for a very large chunk of the movie. Quadrophenia only has signs of being a rock opera at the beginning and end. That isn’t to say there is no music throughout the middle section but the music that is present isn’t utilized any different than music in a typical film while the beginning and end have extended visual sequences made to accompany the music without detracting from the story or breaking the film’s reality.

It’s Hard Out There for a Mod. Quadrophenia follows Jimmy an English youth looking for meaning in his unsatisfying life. He’s burdened with feelings of hatred toward “normal” society and has a counterculture streak that slowly takes over his entire life. He hates his job and his home life, finding enjoyment in being a mod, spending time with his friends, and satisfying a drug dependency. Following mod culture gives him a sense of belonging and he models his lifestyle around the idea.

Brutal Realism. Quadrophenia, for the most part, is incredibly realistic. The sense of place feels authentic, largely because the film was mostly shot guerilla style without closing roads or getting location permits, but also because of the camera work which is both creative and matter of fact in its delivery of information. Shots are quick and crazy when they need to be, and linger motionless when the scene calls for it. There are actually quite a few anachronisms in Quadrophenia if you look for them (The movie is set in the 60’s) but the sense of place is so strong that it never becomes distracting. Despite many of the characters falling into the molded archetypes of mods and rockers, nobody feels like a stereotype. The vulgar language and abrupt violence all feel genuine which adds to the movie greatly.

Great Character-Driven Story. I initially didn’t like the characters or identify with their struggle but as the film went on I was pulled into Jimmy’s plight. Quadrophenia succeeded in making me angry right alongside the main character. Even though I initially disliked him, by the end of the film I was feeling every emotion he was. The last act was shockingly emotional, even more, surprising was how genuine all of the emotions felt. Effectively provoking and deeply sad. Some of the supporting actors are a little weak but Phil Daniels in the lead role of Jimmy is incredible. I truly empathized with Jimmy. Even when he did bad things that I couldn’t possibly commend, I always understood why he did them from a character perspective even when he didn’t understand his actions himself. He transformed from a character I didn’t like and didn’t understand, into a character that I genuinely cared about and felt bad for.

A whole generation of rebels without causes… searching for meaning behind the handlebars of a motor scooter.

Watch Quadrophenia on iTunes