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.



A Star is Born review

Bradley Cooper revitalises one of cinema’s best-loved romances, updating the story of an ageing rock musician and his relationship with a talented rising star with an emotional depth often amiss in romantic-dramas.

With the cinematic release of A Star is Born – a film that had been hovering in development with various directors and actors attached for some time – came a plethora of critical acclaim. That acclaim, widespread and enthusiastic, is not misplaced. Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut – an obvious passion project that he has poured his heart and soul into – is a confident film with songs featuring hair-raising live music scenes, moving adult drama, and knockout performances from a small ensemble cast.

Both Cooper and Lady Gaga are sensational, they share an electric on-screen chemistry meaning their relationship is believable and their shared scenes (essentially the whole movie) are a delight to watch. There are many (quite possibly too many) romantic films out there. None are quite as affecting as this one.a-star-is-born

Gaga gives an Oscar-worthy performance, fusing quiet confidence with a rising-star vulnerability that endears us to her and allows us to see beyond the veneer of her real life star persona.  Cooper directs with a curiosity for his characters and the music industry that takes us on a captivating journey. Morphing into haunted rock star Jackson Maine, Cooper gives a physical and emotional performance that is both memorable and tragic, and veteran Sam Elliott is terrific, supporting his co-stars with comfortable ease.

With A Star is Born Cooper explores timely themes with such gut-wrenching force it’s almost impossible to leave the cinema unmoved. The film’s power is in its ability to stay with you long after the credits roll and, this alone, is its true triumph.

Billed as a romantic-drama, A Star is Born is so much more, going beyond its genre to explore the music industry, masculinity and mental health. It might be the story’s fourth incarnation but it is also quite possibly its best. Superb.

If I Stay, review

If I Stay was 2014’s big (ish) teen romance. Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, in a role that is relatively tame compared to her usual character choices, R. J. Cutler’s film took Gayle Forman’s popular novel and adapted it for the mass market. A commercial hit, but somewhat of a critical flop, Cutler’s film is an intimate portrait of adolescent love. It’s wet and soppy. It’s a little unbelievable – but that’s down to the source material – but, if you’re a fan of similar fare such as The Notebook and The Lucky One (or anything Nicholas Sparks related, i. e. full of tragedy), this is for you.

The premise is an original one, taken from Forman’s novel, which is said to be written in a lyrical prose. Music is a main theme, pairing classical and indie to great effect. Moretz portrays Mia, a talented cellist. Jamie Blackley (in a breakout role) is Adam, love-interest and frontman for rising rock band Williamette Stone. These two characters are pretty much the sole focus of the film, which is interesting, yet problematic. If I Stay follows Mia as she experiences an out of body experience following a fatal car crash with her family. This alone is an unfathomable loss, but the main sense of grief is centered on her on-again off-again relationship with Adam. Fourteen year olds will love watching this romance play out – older audiences will question the relevance this holds following Mia‘s family tragedy.While viewing, this doesn’t really register, upon refl

moretz and blackley in if i stay

moretz and blackley in if i stay

ection the issues of the narrative come to the surface and cloud the overall effectiveness of the film.

Its not all bad, though. Blackley is electric in his first position as leading man. Sexy, confident and broody, he channels an indie energy that is often seen in male characters within Brit cinema – it’s nice to say goodbye to an all-American hero for once. The chemistry between the pair never reaches the depths of McAdams and Gosling, or DiCaprio and Danes, but Moretz and Blackley play their respective roles dutifully and together create a romance worth rooting for. Mireille Enos supports as Kat and stands out as a captivating talent in the little screen time she has – watch out for future performances from this kooky young actress.

While the script and run-time lets Cutler’s picture down, the cinematography and soundtrack make up for it. Juxtaposing rock legends with classical names, Heitor Pereira has chosen a carefully selected score which music fanatics will certainly appreciate. The musical component plays a strong part, and watching the story of both leads play out in respect to this is one of the most captivating elements. A backyard party which sees the cello meet the acoustic guitar lends to a stand-out scene, as messages of family ties and young love radiates from the screen.

Generally, If I Stay is an enjoyable, yet intense, watch that will serve as a guilty pleasure for many. The whole idea of wanting to live on because of true love is fairy-tale esque, and does hold a sense of beauty, but this alone gets tangled up amongst different strands of loss. Having said that, there’s a mass audience for this kind of genre, and those that seek it out for this reason, will treasure Cutler’s adaptation.