Starring: Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige, Sally Hawkins, Noah Taylor, Paddy Considine
Director: Richard Ayoade
Picked for a number of film festivals including Sundance, Berlin and Toronto, it isn't long into the film that I understand the reason why. Anyone whose spent any time observing the films these festivals have helped promote will have noticed a format many of them follow; a family with relationship problems, often a romantic interest and a style of cinematography that attempts to 'break from the mold' provided by Hollywood to fall slap bang into another one, using the revelationary idea of attempting to make this all the more naturalistic and as such provide pitfalls and peaks to keep you guessing despite eventually reaching the expected conclusion. Truth be told if I hadn't noticed the directors name – best known for his role as 'Moss' from the show “IT Crowd” – I probably wouldn't have bothered at all, but with his comic timing at the helm there's always hope.
That said if you're expecting a comedy then you can think again for here he's flexing his creative muscles, and whilst the occasional laugh out loud comedic moments certainly succeed in lightening the mood, often emerging from the awkward situations Ayoade seems to revel in creating, much of the plot takes a somewhat darker turn. Dredging up the past, he succeeds in creating a snapshot of life during that turbulent time where you're exploring your own sexuality; the quest to lose your virginity amidst a sea of misinformation from peers with no more of a clue than yourself, parents struggling to find a way to broach the subject and the notion of romance thrown in the middle. Yet this is no standard love story, playing out more like a tragedy as we are given the internal monologues explaining his decisions that often end up in disaster, and yet everyone involved always manages to remain endearing to watch, evoking our sympathy, and keeping us hoping for the best whilst expecting the worst.
The show is often stolen by his two parents; the mother thirsting for the passion of her past by re-igniting an old flame that threatens their marriage whilst her marine biologist husband seems to calmly take the most devastating news without raising a word in anger, both bumbling through their relationship whilst awkwardly trying to advise their son in matters of love. Presenting a vision of the future for our young protagonist, Oliver, he finds himself spiralling towards without control, desperately doing all he can to be the best boyfriend he can whilst questions of the strength of his parents marriage are constantly plaguing his thoughts. He treads the line between coming off as merely an idiot to be laughed at and a caricature with a surprising capability considering his young age, and where much of the film rests firmly on his performance, he carries it to the conclusion in a manner that can only attest to his acting experience, never coming off as anything but an apt portrayal of a young teenager.
But as was mentioned at the start, it still seems to fall into that conventional format that whilst alone implies nothing bad about the end result, makes it difficult to shake the feeling that there's little here that hasn't already been done before, and it's here that I find fault. Despite this, it seems pertinent to point out that this is still his debut as a director and an avenue he's expressed interest in exploring, and it is with first efforts that often people flounder as they learn from their mistakes; Wook-Park had three full-lengths under his belt before becoming known for 'Joint Security Area;' Aronofsky's 'Pi' was a mere prelude to the landmark 'Requiem for a Dream,' and both now rank amongst my favourite directors. Already he shows a confidence in his abilities that suggests that if this is anything like what we can expect from him in the future, then surely the best is still yet to come.