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Loved Up (1995)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Loved Up (1995)
For Love Bites, BBC, tx. 23/9/1995
70 mins, colour
DirectorPeter Cattaneo
Executive ProducerRichard Langridge
ProducerDavid M. Thompson
 Elinor Day
ScreenplayOliver Parker

Cast: Lena Headey (Sarah); Ian Hart (Tom); Charles Creed-Miles (Danny); Clarence Smith (Dez); Linda Bassett (Ruth); Milly Gregory (Karen)

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When Sarah falls for Tom her life changes as he introduces her to raves and Ecstasy. She moves in with him after their first night together, leaving her teenage sister at home to cope with their alcoholic mother, who is heading for a breakdown.

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Director Peter Cattaneo is best associated with the films The Full Monty (1997) and Lucky Break (2001) - lightweight comedies based around serious social situations. But his early career produced Loved Up, a relatively dark TV drama about the controversial drug-fuelled rave scene of the late 1980s/early 1990s.

Loved Up explores the escapism provided by Ecstasy and rave culture, hinged upon an unlikely love story between hardened hedonist Tom (Ian Hart) and clubber-in-training Sarah (Lena Headley). The couple meet in the greasy café in which Sarah works, where she questions him on how he wants his Coke (in a glass or can, cherry, diet or regular) - a quizzing which "does his head in".

Tom is a breath of fresh air to Sarah, who is trapped in a humdrum job and constant conflict with her perpetually drunk mother. Her introduction to Ecstasy takes place within hours of meeting Tom and is a liberating experience. We follow her ascent to the high as her jaws tighten, her muscles twitch eagerly and the need to move compels her limbs.

The couple soon move into together and continually suspend the need to actually talk or face reality through a readily available supply of Ecstasy. Tom is an ambiguous character, a relentless chemical head who nonetheless insists on the value of work (even though he works in a toy shop). Meanwhile, Sarah has severe problems at home - with her alcoholic mother becoming increasingly abusive to her home-alone younger sister - from which Tom provides an initial escape but eventual let-down. He avoids conflict, choosing to either drop the discussion or alleviate confrontation through another pill. The problems of Sarah's family are simply too much negative emotion.

The appeal of the club scene to Sarah is obvious - an escape from a destructive home life - but it's clear that this escape is only temporary and she is drawn back to reality when her mother's situation escalates. However, what exactly Tom is rebelling against or running away from is unclear. When Sarah decides to finish with him he says: "So much stuff to deal with, what people expect... the pressure y'know." This is before admitting that he: "Will always let you down." Life, with its numerous responsibilities, seems too much for Tom who looks no further than a jiffy bag of Ecstasy for support, whatever the problem.

Paul Clarke

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Video Clips
1. Say hello to uncle E (2:23)
2. Bad attitude (0:48)
3. Meeting Mum (3:31)
4. Rude Awakening (2:53)
Go Now (1995)
Hart, Ian (1964-)