dir-scr Simon Amstell
prd Alexandra Breede, Dominic Dromgoole, Louise Simpson
with Colin Morgan, Phenix Brossard, Joel Fry, Jack Rowan, Jessica Raine, Anna Chancellor, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Michele Belgrand, James Lailey, Ellie Kendrick, James Bloor, Arnab Chanda
release UK Oct.18 lff
18/UK 1h25
Cute couple: Brossard and Morgan

fry chancellor stewart-jarrett
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Benjamin With a central character who is deeply annoying, this scruffy British comedy struggles to keep the audience on its side. It meanders through a loose, rather goofy story that continually threatens to erupt into a feel-good romance, but the tone is more bitter than it is sweet. There are plenty of terrific moments to keep the viewer entertained, even if the film never quite engages on any other level.

Benjamin (Morgan) is a sad-sack aspiring filmmaker who took seven years to make his second movie after his award-winning debut. It's now ready to premiere at the London Film Festival, but Ben is having doubts. His wacky best pal Stephen (Fry), agent Billie (Raine) and producer Tessa (Chancellor) fail to cheer him up. Even a fling with rising-star actor Harry (Rowan), leaves him glum. Finally, Ben's spirits rise when he meets the adorable Noah (Brossard), lead singer of an indie band. But Benjamin can't help from sabotaging any chance of happiness in his life.

Amstell's script is smart, creating characters who feel realistic even as they indulge in some deeply unsympathetic behaviour. Thankfully, the humour is knowing and sharp, poking fun at every hint of pretension. Benjamin seems like a genuinely talented filmmaker who simply has trouble letting go of his work. So it's no wonder that he is struggling on the fringe of the British film industry, taking a very long time to put the finishing touches on his second project. He's certainly not the kind of director Hollywood is likely to snap up for a superhero blockbuster.

As the perfectionist Benjamin, Morgan never shies away from the more obsessive character traits. This makes him endearing in an awkward way, and he becomes more likeable when he's falling for Brossard's charmingly offbeat singer. These two nerds make a perfect couple, so when Benjamin's professional self-doubts begin to undermine their relationship, it's not particularly easy to believe. Meanwhile, Morgan's scenes with Fry, Rowan and Raine crackle with unexpectedly edgy humour, including a frankly ridiculous drug trip.

All of this is nicely played, amusingly silly and occasionally touching on some knowing observations about the tricky life of an artist. But the film never really tries to get into Benjamin's motivation for making a movie to begin with, and his desire for a relationship seems to have more to do with not feeling lonely than with actually connecting to another person. So perhaps the film does have something pointed to say about society after all.

cert 15 themes, language 19.Oct.18 lff

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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall