Quadrophenia (1979)

  • Time: 117 min
  • Genre: Drama | Music
  • Director: Franc Roddam
  • Cast: Phil Daniels, Sting, Leslie Ash, Ray Winstone


London, 1965: Like many other youths, Jimmy hates the philistine life, especially his parents and his job in a company’s mailing division. Only when he’s together with his friends, a ‘Mod’ clique, cruising London on his motor-scooter and hearing music such as that of ‘The Who’ and ‘The High Numbers’, does he feel free and accepted. However, it’s a flight into an illusionary world.

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  • I knew little to nothing about the ‘mods’ and ‘rockers’ of Swinging Sixties London and the fierce rivalry that bristled between them before going into the film, but Quadrophenia, Franc Roddam’s film based on The Who’s rock opera of the same name, completely immerses the viewer in their world. The images I tend to conjure of this important era in Britain’s history is that of The Beatles running from a screaming crowd of ecstatic girls in A Hard Day’s Night (1964). While Richard Lester’s film has the fortune of being made at the time this movement was thriving, it’s light-hearted fare, albeit a terrific one.

    Quadrophenia doesn’t pull its punches, and portrays the mods, in particular the young, alienated Jimmy (Phil Daniels) in all of their rough-and-tumble, amphetamine-popping glory. Adorned in the latest fashion and riding around London on his customised scooter, Jimmy funds his lifestyle by begrudgingly working as a post room boy for the kind of stiff-upper-lipped types he loathes. Outside of his job, he is a living nightmare for his parents, constantly out all hours listening to rock music with his friends and popping blue uppers to keep him on edge.

    He is romantically invested in Steph (Leslie Ash), who is currently involved with another chap, but after he does finally sleep with her, he discovers that the experience didn’t have the same lasting effect it did on him. Jimmy also learns that his friend Kevin (Ray Winstone), fresh out of the army, is a rocker and therefore an enemy. A sense of alienation builds inside of the protagonist, with only the sense of belonging within the gang and cheap drugs to help drag him through his depression. It all builds up to a visit to Brighton where, along with super-cool mod Ace Face (Sting), meet up for a huge brawl with a gang of rockers.

    Backed by a terrific soundtrack from The Who, Quadrophenia recreates a fashion craze now long-gone, and does so convincingly with a real sense of time and place. Jimmy and his gang are all working-class, slumping through dead-end jobs to fund their lifestyle in spite of their humble upbringings, infusing the film with a sense of social-awareness. The group show no desire whatsoever to fit in the social structure of a society they feel is unfair, with Jimmy in particular feeling left hung out to dry. But the most impressive aspect of the film is the young Phil Daniels as the raging tearaway whose character often treads dangerously close to being plain loathsome. He plays the role with an irresistible charm and swagger that make him entirely sympathetic. An underrated cult gem.

    Rating: 4/5

    Read more reviews at The Wrath of Blog

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