David Freyne’s ‘Dating Amber’ is a gay coming of age Irish comedy drama from Director David Freyne and it is a charmer. It stars Fionn O’Shea as Eddie, a gay teen set in 1995 who is struggling to accept himself. Cue in Amber (Lola Petticrew) who proposes that they present themselves as a couple in order to protect each other socially – she is a lesbian. We have seen this story before, but Freyne gives the film fresh spins. I was taken by O’Shea, who is wonderful here, giving a nuanced performance – his eyes are very expressive and he is able to show emotions even without dialogue. (O’Shea was also wonderful in ‘Normal People’ as one of Marianne’s boyfriends) And Petticrew is wonderfully brash, and you can see the differences in both characters that when they get together, you are excited by the prospect. The film also shows the struggles teenagers used to face regarding the issue of sexual orientation. I am far removed to the youth experience now and I don’t know if it has improved, but the film is accurate in showing the mixed signals we used to get regarding acceptance and religion.
I can’t decide if I liked Sophie Hyde’s film ‘Animals.’ But let me tell you. I am still thinking about it. Based on her book, Emma Jane Unsworth writes about a story of friendship, between Laura (Holliday Grainger) and Tyler (Alia Shawkat), who have a ten year friendship. Essentially, the story would revolve around the fractures of their friendship when Laura meets a man. But somehow it is a little more than that. This is a story of how art is made, of how we fall in and otu of love with people and friends, and of even the fragility of relationships. There are times when these characters exasperated me, and I feel like the film is going nowhere (some scenes are bewilderingly cut for no reason) but then I get to a point where it all kind of makes sense. In a way, it is like dealing with our own relationships – we commit and we get frustrated, but we persevere, and we survive.
Maybe now that I am a little older, I can relate more to voices that sound more weathered. Flo McSweeney (I think she is from Ireland) doesn’t sound old per se, but you can sense her experience and wisdom through the way she interprets songs in her new album, ‘Picture In a Frame.’ She has an eclectic mix of songs here: ‘Leaving the Table,’ and Tom Waits’ ‘Picture In A Frame’ stand out to me among her other interpretations. Her style skews more pop than jazz, and that’s not a bad thing. McSweeney sounds like she knows what she is singing about, and nowadays that’s more than enough.
Nowadays, we don’t really get a lot of simple old-fashioned love stories on screen. So when I find one, I enjoy a lot more than I should. From Ireland and Spain comes ‘The Food Guide To Love,’ and it was such a random choice. I realized it was from 2013, so it’s old-ish. But the sentiment of the film isn’t. The whole thing seems -well, is – a formula, which has been followed by every single rom-com ever created, But you know what? It works, all because of the wonder chemistry between the two leads (Richard Coyle and Leonora Watling) Oliver and Viviana. Even with the precariousness of the story, you still believe because you actually see and feel how the two of them fall in love. So when the relationship starts to crumble, you get a pinch in your heart. It’s a told as old as time, as they say, and is effective then, now still, and I bet to the next generation. It’s never failed yet.
One of my first real pleasant movie surprises this year is ‘Handsome Devil,’ an Irish feel good coming of age/coming out movie. You would think at this point of my life I have already had my fill of these kinds of movies but I guess my jaded heart still hasn’t ceased from feeling because I found myself balling while watching it – tears of joy, because I got so involved with the characters.
There’s nothing new here, bur we have great performances, starting with Fionn O’Shea as Ned, the outsider who is geeky and nerdy but with a musical heart of gold. Then comes Connor (Nicholas Galitzine) as his new roommate – expelled from another boarding school because of fights, and they form an unlikely friendship. Circumstances dictate this friendship to be compromised, and revealing more would be criminal.
You will find yourself very caught up with this, and it’s one of those movies where you are tearing up while you are still laughing. It’s treacly, and preachy – probably to the choir – but it is ultimately uplifting and you will be clapping your hands by the end credits.