Movie Review: Heavy Load

October 4, 2008 Updated: September 24, 2019

Heavy Load are a punk band that play ramshackle, noisy covers of well-known pop songs. They are vigorous and exude an infectious joy for life seldom seen in music or elsewhere. In 12 years, their music has apparently “neither improved nor deteriorated”. They also happen to have three members with learning disabilities.

Heavy Load, the movie, is a personal quest by director Jerry Rothwell to understand what makes the band so happy. He sets this out explicitly at the start and frequently inserts himself into the film, guiltily examining the role his cameras play in the tribulations the band go through.

These range from drummer Michael, who has Down syndrome, threatening to leave the band following a disagreement about Westlife, to guitarist Mick moving to France with his family. Meanwhile the band are gigging more heavily and a potentially career changing festival appearance is looming…

Heavy Load Are Endearing

Whilst Rothwell ultimately doesn’t find out the meaning of happiness, it’s of little consequence. Heavy Load are so endearing that the film would be charming without his intervention.

Drummer Michael is frequently hilarious, at one point exclaiming, “I hate Paul Richards [the band’s bass player]. I hate your beard.”

Rather poignantly, he also later tells Rothwell, “I’m just no-one.”

Then there’s singer Simon who inserts swear words into every song at will, with Kylie’s ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ coming out sounding like an obscenity strewn cacophony.

Along the way the band spearhead a very worthy campaign for support workers to accompany people with disabilities beyond 9p.m. so they can attend gigs.

The film doesn’t judge the three band members with learning disabilities (there are two others without) as being “special” or “different”, and we can be thankful for that. Because it’s about time there was a band like Heavy Load, and it’s about time we saw more people with disabilities on our screens.

Follow John on Twitter: @jdsmithies