Benjamin review

Simon Amstell’s feature debut, Benjamin, is a subtly funny, deeply romantic picture starring Colin Morgan and Phenix Brossard. Led by a powerhouse performance from Morgan, the film explores the idosyncracies of twenty-somethings in the creative industries in London in classic Amstell fashion.

At its core, Benjamin is a romantic character study interested in the unsaid. Exploring what constitutes art (and what inspires it, too), the film gently and playfully mocks the industry it focuses on. Interested in the formation of relationships, Amstell shakes off unrealistic displays of romance and instead grounds the film in everyday examples of love; the kind you can relate to. The kind you might have experienced.

It feels like a personal narrative for Amstell, who has spoken openly in interviews about his own experiences as a gay man navigating relationship territory. Indeed, Benjamin‘s mannerisms are comparative to Simon’s, as is his dry humour and awkward quality. These traits only endear us to the titular character more, as we watch his relationship with Phenix Brossards’ Noah blossom.

Brossard and Morgan share an enigmatic chemistry, both are a joy to watch. They share porridge, take mushrooms and wash each other’s hair. They support one another’s creative ventures. They both feel fear at the strength of their feelings. This is not an exploration of unchartered territory but instead a film interested in honest, innocent love and one that understands the complexities of it.

Joel Fry co-stars as Benjamin‘s best friend Stephen, a struggling comedian battling with depression. The scope of male friendship is explored in a manner both unobtrusive and moving, but Fry isn’t present enough and the short run time doesn’t leave space to explore his story more. However, this is just one small gripe and the feature, as a whole, is beautifully shot and refreshingly original in its take on modern love.

Simon Amstell, known previously for his cut-throat comments on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, shows his penchant for warmth and wit – and it’s not at the expense of others. Simply yet powerfully crafted, Benjamin is a relatable tale of young love that will resonate with anyone who has ever had, or sought out, organic romance.

 

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service, review

Kingsman: The Secret Service is director Matthew Vaughn’s return to what the Brit helmer does best; Profanity left, right and centre? Check. Gratuitous violence accompanied by sophisticated choreography? Check. Vaughan took a break from the world of R-rated antagonists to create X-Men: First Class. Obviously a franchise for the masses, the film still stood as a Vaughn feature – Jane Goldman penned the screenplay and the editing and visuals were all there – but of course that streak of adult content we are all so used to was gone. Fans of the somewhat stylized director will be pleased to know its back, in force, with his latest, Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Adapted from the graphic novel titled The Secret Service and created by Mark (Kick Ass) Millar and Dave Gibbons, the film centres around Eggsy Unwin, an adolescent chav who has the potential to become one of a team of elite spies who are at the top of the espionage game. Supported by Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Samuel L. Jackson, Taron Egerton as protagonist Eggsy is not only entirely likeable here, but somewhat triumphant in his first blockbuster role. Intelligent and quick-witted, Firth becomes a mentor for him and the pairs on-screen chemistry (which is represented as a kind of father/son bond) is enjoyable to watch ensue. Jackson is in full ham mode as the villain of the piece. As Richmond Valentine, he wants to create a new world, full of VIP’s and scarce of anyone lower than celebrity. With a fear of blood and gore (which plays host to a number of ironic jokes), Valentine is Kingsman‘s Bill Gates. It’s all rather absurd, but in an enjoyable, we-aren’t-taking-ourselves-too-seriously way. The latter point reiterates the British personality Vaughn’s film’s always seem to encompass.

colin firth as henry in kingsman: the secret service

colin firth as harry in kingsman: the secret service

While entertaining, the film is far from perfect. Penned as a comedy, the laugh-out-loud gags are few and far between. The 129 minute run-time is a little to much, and combat scenes tread the line of becoming pretentiously long. At moments Kingsman is reminiscent of Kick Ass, which definitely can’t be a bad comparison but for the sake of originality it might be here. Having said that, these are just small faults in a feature that has done remarkably well. Shot on a budget of $80 million, it went on to take $400 million at the Box Office. Beyond impressive profit margins, Kingsman has cemented Egerton as a talent to watch and he is geared up for the central role in up and coming films Legend and Eddie the Eagle. The flick also stands as a who’s who of contemporary British acting. Vaughn and Goldman have this wonderful routine of picking the best in young acting ability and propelling them towards greatness – this is no different.

By no means perfect, but indulgent – and hella’ enjoyable.