Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Albatross

Reviews - Albatross

Albatross

Reviewed By John Stakes

Albatross
Albatross
The meaning of the word “albatross” in last Sunday’s debut feature film by director Niall MacCormick is something which is a constant and inescapable burden. If so it turned out there was more than one albatross (and a few seagulls!) in this frequently highly enjoyable coming of age comedy drama which shoehorned a great deal of plot into its ninety minutes screen time.

First we had married father of two girls the somewhat reclusive writer Jonathan Fischer (Sebastian “The Lives of Others” Koch) whose marriage is as close to the rocks as his Bed and Breakfast, an edifice which seems to reflect the faded glory of its owners. Jonathan has suffered from writer’s block since penning his first book “Cliff House” some twenty years earlier, and retreated to the attic to escape the barbs of his long suffering former actress wife Joa and the responsibilities of fatherhood.

Into their dysfunctional lives enters 17 years old Emilia, a sparky, sexually experienced but not too rebellious teenager living with her grandparents following the suicide of her mother and disappearance of her father. Emilia has been led to believe that she is a descendent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and thinks she could become a writer herself. However she is burdened by self-expectation but at the same time buoyed up by this supposed familial connection which turns out to be illusory.

Emilia’s impact on the Fischer family is predictably devastating following her engagement as a second cleaner. She befriends Beth, the Fischer’s elder daughter also 17 who is far less experienced in teenage matters than Emilia and welcomes her support which enables her to begin to take flight from the claustrophobic world of her parents and consider her own individuality. More seriously Emilia revitalises Jonathan’s flagging sex life which later unravels what is left of the family ties when this opportunistic dalliance is revealed in a contrived but well constructed scene.

These events unfurl in Port St Mary on the Isle of Man which thanks to some useful Manx funding stands in well for a pretty little village somewhere on the Sussex coast. The screenplay by Tanzin Rafn recalls her own upbringing near Worthing the events of which were to inform her decision to become a writer and the character of Emily is thought to be largely autobiographical if somewhat embellished to beef up her witty screenplay.

Director Niall MacCormick’s generally upbeat take on teenage angst was, for the most part, amiable, funny, nimble, and enlivened by some impressive acting from Felicity Jones as Beth and particularly from Jessica Brown-Findlay as Emilia whose part seemed to have been written for her.

The film has been criticised as being too lightweight for its themes, but as it largely focused on the perspectives of both girls and their attempts to make sense of their worlds, its gravitas was deliberately less seriously pitched than had the film concentrated on the perspectives of the adults. And if these rights of passage activities were a little cute and rounded off a little too neatly so what? There was much to enjoy in the perky direction, editing, and in the music from Jack Arnold which perfectly captured the constant flitting between sadness and joy of the hormonally charged world of both girls……and some charming coastal scenery proved diverting enough when credibility was called into question. After some challenging cinema in recent weeks it felt quite refreshing to be simply amused and entertained.

The filming was completed in a very economical six weeks. MacCormack can be pleased with his first venture into feature filming and his efforts more than justified the film’s two nominations at the 2011 British Independent Film Awards.

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19th Keswick Film Festival

22nd-25th February 2018


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