With its depictions of immigration, sexuality and feelings of isolation, London Unplugged is a highly relevant film for a number of viewers. It follows a similar approach to Richard Curtis' Love Actually, in that a multitude of different storylines interweave and all share similar themes. Each segment, however, is directed by a different filmmaker and depicts the intersection of seemingly disparate characters living in The Big Smoke who feel more alone than ever in this fast-paced, technologically advanced world. We may be stepping forward technologically, but in terms of socially connecting with one another and being there for the people we love, humanity is taking a number of giant steps backwards.
London Unplugged has an admirable central concept which is executed well in some instances. However, it doesn't always succeed and sometimes falls into tedium. The danger of tackling this theme in the portmanteau style is that some storylines are going to interest viewers more than others. So, while I found several stories intriguing, there were also a number that didn't fully hit the mark and even occasionally came across as a little bit pretentious.
There are clear highlights. Namely, the one concerning Layla (Dimitra Barla). She has emigrated to London for personal reasons and is finding it very difficult to adapt to the English way of life, particularly struggling with her rather demeaning job as a waitress. It's only when she meets a lawyer where she works that her luck appears to turn around, but a truth is revealed that makes her backstory all the more devastating. It was one of the most captivating plot threads because it's one of the most scarily accurate depictions of the ignorance that still remains in the world. A massive shoutout to Barla for playing the part of Layla with such dignity and grace, despite everything that has been thrown at her character.
Other storylines seem to have been thrown into the mix to either make the film feature length or to make a grand statement. I was really excited when some animation was utilised to present clubbing in London, and it included some very unusual and creative images, but by the time the sketch was over, it didn't feel like it connected as fluidly with the rest of the film as other scenes do. I also could've done without one man's encounter with a sex shop worker; the conversation is very one-sided and you understand the point the shop worker is going to get across at the beginning of his long speech. The scene seemed to drag on way longer than it needed to and I couldn't wait for it to end.
London Unplugged deserves some applause for having the guts to address a number of issues, and it's great to see it give so much focus to people who are often scrutinised by the more ignorant parts of our society. However, if I was to watch this again, I'd watch the segments that I thoroughly enjoyed and fast-forward through the ones that brought the film to a grinding halt. Still, a valiant effort from everyone involved; it's certainly not without its merits.