Review: Music is romance in ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’

A couple’s relationship is deconstructed in this Britpop-literate love story

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Love is a blur in “Modern Life is Rubbish,” a charming romance about a relationship built on a mutual appreciation of music.

Freya Mavor and Josh Whitehouse bond in “Modern Life is Rubbish.”

We begin with the breakup of Liam (Josh Whitehouse), an aspiring musician, and Nat (Freya Mavor), a graphic designer. As they split up their CDs, we flash back to the music store where they first met, as she’s holding a copy of Blur’s “Best Of” album — “Modern Life is Rubbish” is named after Blur’s second album, which this film’s target audience should already know — and he gives her a long diatribe about the frivolity of greatest hits sets and how she should start at the beginning of the band’s discography. She’s no Johnny-Come-Lately, she knows the band well, she’s just interested in the limited edition set’s bonus live disc.

So begins this music literate pair’s courtship, which begins like a blockbuster debut album but eventually hits its third album snags. Liam sees growing up as “selling out” and continues to pursue his musical dreams, while Nat accepts a corporate job. They drift apart. But no great band stays broken up forever.

Director Daniel Gill and writer Philip Gawthorne fashion “Modern Life is Rubbish” as a tribute to Britpop — the excellent soundtrack includes Radiohead, Stereophonics, Spiritualized, the 1975 and more (but, oddly, no Blur) — and they lace the film with references to their favorite music. Meanwhile, Whitehouse and Mavor bring an ease and relatability to their characters and their relationship. Despite their differences, you want to see them make it to the encore.

Gill and Gawthorne understand how music is a trigger, and that certain songs can bring you to a time and place more effectively than any memory. “Modern Life is Rubbish” has a song in its heart, and it will put one in yours.

(313) 222-2284


‘Modern Life is Rubbish’


Not rated, but language, sexual situations, adult content

Running time: 105 minutes