“Been So Long” is a story of love and music that takes place in a neon light-infused Camden Town, North London, and, just like the original stage play and musical, it is going to enchant everybody with its catchy songs and romantic narrative.
We saw it at the London Film Festival, and here what the cast told us on the red carpet!
Behind and In Front of the Camera
“Been So Long” is the adaptation of the play from Young Vic and the musical by Arthur Darvill. At the direction of this lovely modern musical fairytale, we find Tinge Krishnan, who manages the main plot and the subplots smoothly and compellingly. Her use the visual narrative and color is precise and makes the audience dive into the fictional London of Simone, managing to deliver all the power of the story, its songs, and its choreographies.
The story revolves around Simone (played by Michaela Coel, whose piercing beauty and beautiful voice can’t but steal our hearts right away) a single mother who, alone, takes care of her disabled daughter. Although being a real fighter, Simone is also a fragile woman that sometimes overthinks, afraid to let herself fall and who, for this precise reason, needs her best friend’s sage advice. The best friend, in this case, is also her sister, Yvonne (Ronke Adekoluejo), a headstrong and self-confident woman who knows precisely her place under the sun and is not afraid to take it. Thanks to Yvonne, Simone allows herself one night out in a Camden Town that looks and sounds like a crazy, neon and a little bit rock’n’roll Fairy kingdom. Here she meets Raymond (Arinzè Kene), a handsome stranger with an obscure past.
Raymond is just out of prison and, despite her growing interest, Simone is not sure if her head can allow her heart to fall for him…
What They Told Us
George has a wide theatre background, so we asked him how he worked on his role and its physicality: “It was cool, Tinge and I, we had a lot of visual references, she sent me lots of videos of different types of dance that she wanted me to explore, like physical comedy like Buster Keaton. And then I worked with a choreographer called Christian Ballet and we developed styles and moves together. So that was great, it was really fun.”
We also asked him to describe his character, and he said: “I reckon Gil is a ‘Camden fairy‘, I think he’s been in Camden since time again, and he’s like love embodied, because circumstances come out quite bitterly to start with, so he is at the beginning part looking for revenge but he comes out of a place of passion and love.”
She told us, “Yvonne is free, boundless, open; also damaged…ultimately she is fun.”
She is also confident about whom she is, she knows what she wants. We asked Ronke what kind of message a character like Yvonne conveys, “I think women should be able to do what they want, just as much men do. Yvonne does what she wants and that is important for people to learn, watch and experience. Do what you want! And that doesn’t necessarily mean you do crazy stuff, do what you want as long as it makes you happy. I feel we do a lot in terms of navigating our way through happiness and, to make other people feel comfortable, I think it’s important to find happiness for ourselves. She is very wise but she hides a lot in eyeshadow and eyelashes and fun hair like I have this evening. (laugh)”
This movie is also about really strong bonds between women, and in particular between your character and Simone, so we were curious on how they worked on this aspect, “Oh, she is my best friend; Michaela is my best friend in real life, so it wasn’t hard to make that bond. You know what’s weird? Our characters in real life are kind of the opposite, so she is wilder than I am, I like to stay at home and drink wine while she wants to go out. We were playing each other the opposite way around.”
On how would she describe the movie, Roke said, “I haven’t seen it for so long, I remember the movie, it made me laugh. It’s fun.” And about the catchy songs, she said, “There will be one song that will be stuck in your head for a long time, you tell me afterward if you remember it.”
About his character, Luke said “He is part of a sort of love quadrangle in this film. He is lovelorn and lost and hopeful like the film is itself. Certainly a bit of what the film is about, a sense of yarning for someone new. I hope people will find this film charming; it’s kind of a love letter to London so I hope they fall in love with the city.
I didn’t actually film in Camden Town, we filmed all of my stuff sort of nearer to where I live now. But I went to drama school around there so I spent a lot of my formative years in Camden Town, and it feels like it has the glow that I remember from when I was a kid. It felt exciting and it felt important and vibrant. It really took me back to be 18,19, 20 and feeling like everything was possible.”
“Do what you want! And that doesn’t necessarily mean you do crazy stuff, do what you want as long as it makes you happy.”
We asked Michaela how she prepared to be Simone, the protagonist, also vocally-wise, “So I knew Ché Walker, the writer, so I saw the play 8 years ago and so I kind of got to do what I wanted to do with the character, and I would write to him because Simone is based on somebody else that he actually really knew, so that was great. Singing was really hard, I am not a professional singer by any means, so I lost my voice a lot, that was probably the hardest thing.”
This is a movie about love but, also, about really strong female bonds, so we asked what she wanted the audience to bring back, “Well, I think it’s about people that have the strength to cover their vulnerability because they are scared of letting the world in. I think it’s important that, for any character that is strong, we should understand that they are very vulnerable too. Everybody is very tridimensional, you are never just one thing, so she, Simone, isn’t just strong, she is actually incredibly vulnerable.”
One Last Thing
Seven Years after her debut with “Junkhearts,” Tinge Krishnan returns to the London Film Festival with a beautifully crafted love story, both warm and colorful. Love is expressed in a very down-to-earth, sweet and realistic way, also thanks to some of the brilliant directing choices, such as the split screen.
Moreover, the romantic bond that links the couple is just as important as the empowering one between the female characters, with the striking example of the funny, but somehow enlightening, friendship between Yvonne and Simone.