Modern Life Is Rubbish
dir Daniel Jerome Gill
scr Philip Gawthorne
prd Dominic Norris
with Josh Whitehouse, Freya Mavor, Will Merrick, Matt Milne, Ian Hart, Steven Mackintosh, Tom Riley, Daisy Bevan, Jessie Cave, Sorcha Cusack, Yasmin El-Circy, Abby Cassidy
release US 27.Apr.18, UK 4.May.18
17/UK 1h45
Modern Life Is Rubbish
Meeting cute in a record shop: Whitehouse and Mavor

hart mackintosh riley
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Modern Life Is Rubbish Exploring a relationship by flicking between beginning and end, this British drama is skilfully shot, edited and played. But the story structure is a problem. Happy early scenes are delightful, while angry later ones are painfully unsympathetic, although cast and crew try to pull that back. And using the title of a 1993 Blur album, the film is underscored with terrific of pop hits, club tracks and strong original songs.

As they split up, musician Liam (Whitehouse) and his designer girlfriend Natalie (Mavor) divide their extensive record and CD collection, remembering their relationship in context of music they bought and gigs they attended. While packing boxes, old irritations emerge, like Liam's refusal to have a mobile phone. Liam and his pals Olly and Gus (Merrick and Milne) have been working with a manager (Hart) to get their break. But problems emerge both between the musicians and between Liam and Natalie. So when a terrific gig comes up, Liam isn't sure he can write another song.

Because of the structure, there's no doubt where this is heading, and Gawthorne litters the flashbacks with obvious clues. Attractive quirks that drew them together eventually become ammunition in arguments. Liam's independence and creativity shifts into condescension and self-absorption as Natalie realises that someone needs to pay the bills. Then as the story continues in the final act, it doesn't seem to have much left to say. But the people and their music keep it watchable.

In the happier past, Whitehouse and Mavor inject spark and charm to make Liam and Natalie engaging. In present-day scenes, they are bitter, jagged versions of these people as they splinter and start over with new partners (Bevan and Riley). Both actors are likeable even when they're being nasty. Whitehouse's Liam grows scruffier over the years, while Mavor's Natalie becomes a sleek businesswoman. Aside from some enjoyable swagger from Hart, the side characters are even sketchier.

This is a story told in small scenes, edited together out of order. It's a mixture of light romance and much darker drama, but the script is never complex enough to merge the two. Instead, we get the usual issues that face aspiring musicians, and things like muddy festival camping straining their relationship. Liam's rants about the encroachment of corporate culture are right on, but by then he's become too strident to listen to. Which is a problem for a film that wants us to feel something about him in the end.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 4.Apr.18

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