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Year: 1979
UK: BFI (Access)
Cast: David Beames, Andrew Byatt, Paul Hollywood, Adrian Jones, Sue Jones-Davies, Cyril Kent, Katja Kersten, Lisa Kreuzer, Sabina Michael, Bernard Mistovski, Nina Pace, Sandy Ratcliff, Joseph Riordan, David Squire, Sting, Kim Taylforth
Director: Christopher Petit
Countries: UK / West Germany
UK: 102 mins
UK Certificate: 18 contains strong language and sexual images
UK Release Date: 8 October 2004


One of the most striking feature debuts in British cinema, Chris Petit's (anti)road movie is both a hymn and homage to the dreamed imperatives of the clear highway, while remaining ruefully aware that, in England at least, the road soon runs out and the journey must turn in other directions, not least inward.

Following a young man (David Beames) as he travels to Bristol to investigate the mysterious death of his brother, RADIO ON offers a unique, compelling and even mythic vision of a late 1970s England, stalled between failed hopes of cultural and social change and the imminent upheavals of Thatcherism. As Beames drives, he encounters figures as rootless as himself: an army deserter from Northern Ireland, a German woman looking for her lost child, and a garage mechanic (Sting in an early singing cameo).

Stunningly photographed in luminous monochrome by Martin Schaefer (the brilliant cinematographer of Wim Wenders), and driven by a startling new wave soundtrack (Bowie, Kraftwerk, Lene Lovich, Ian Dury, Wreckless Eric and more), RADIO ON is ripe for rediscovery in an age more attuned to its dramatic understatement.

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