A Formulaic Musical With Decent Chemistry Between Characters
Netflix’s latest romantic musical Been So Long is a formulaic, by-the-numbers film propped up by some impressive chemistry between the characters and a host of upbeat songs and dance numbers. While the film is unlikely to stand out among the more prolific musicals like La La Land or The Greatest Showman, it’s the likeability of the characters and the unique neon aesthetic that make Been So Long a stylish, feel-good flick nonetheless.
The story predominantly revolves around single mum Simone (Michaela Coel) and her inability to really connect and find a relationship. After being hurt in the past, Simone has serious difficulty connecting with anyone other than best friend Yvonne (Ronke Adekoluejo) but when a chance encounter with rugged, handsome man Raymond (Arinzé Kene) arises, the two of then instantly hit it off. Between Raymond’s troubled past and Simone’s barriers, the future seems uncertain for the two of them. What ensues from here is a rapturous flurry of singing, dancing and inevitable drama as the rest of the film works on building the relationship between the two characters and those around them whilst slowly dissolving the barriers around Simone’s heart.
While the story falls into all the usual clichéd pitfalls you’d expect from this genre, Been So Long excels when it lets its two lead characters take centre stage and share the screen together. The natural chemistry between the two shines with plenty of banterous exchanges and solid bites of dialogue helping to really solidify the connection the two obviously share.
It’s worth mentioning too that the second half of the film is far more consistent and better paced than the first. A lot of the songs during the first 45 minutes or so revolve around sex and it does take a while to really warm to some of the characters. Yvonne in particular is a character who’s difficult to empathise with early on, with a lot of her actions and motivations revolving around sex and taking men home. As the film progresses, her persona opens up and with it, a much softer side to her personality that really helps give her some much-needed likeability.
Aesthetically, Been So Long looks great too. Neon colours paint large swathes of the film with quick cuts and big musical numbers igniting the scenes around the phosphorescent beauty of the night. It’s a small touch but one that gives the film an interesting cosmopolitan feel not seen in other recent musicals.
While Been So Long is unlikely to be the best film you see this weekend, there’s enough here to make for a charming little romantic musical nonetheless. The neon-painted aesthetic and natural chemistry between the two lead characters are the biggest takeaways here with the second half of the film far better in terms of pacing and consistency than the first. It’s not perfect and the film does have its own narrative pitfalls but this romantic musical makes for an entertaining watch nonetheless.