Starring: Colin Morgan, Phénix Brossard
Read our interview with Simon Amstell here.
From the sticky clay of half-baked Hollywood rom-coms, caustic comedian Simon Amstell has sculpted a gem with his wonderful debut feature film, Benjamin.
The story focuses on a coming of age that somewhat mirrors that of its maker. Colin Morgan plays the eponymous lanky, pale young man with a mop of dark curly hair. He too has just made his second film. Amstell pours himself into Benjamin, brimming with wit and endless, obsessive self-questioning about his emotional threshold. Can he give love, and could he possibly accept it if it was offered to him? Should he?
There’s immediately more at play than a navel-gazing portrait of a tortured artist, as Benjamin finds its heart when our protagonist meets Noah, a handsome French singer with a magnetic stare. Love at first sight is rare, and even more so for an artist who hides from the sensitivity of the real world behind the protective fences of their craft. But the facade crumbles when Benjamin sees Noah perform – and it’s this love that blows warm air into Amstell’s humble triumph of a movie.
Phénix Brossard and Colin Morgan in Benjamin
A gentle chain of events guides Benjamin through the motions: finish film; meet Noah; try being happy; screen film; get sad; lose Noah; and so on. The skill lies in the details, from Benjamin’s instinctive and perfectly timed ‘we should get married’ approximately ten seconds after the two men meet, to the magical delicacy of the music that saturates the screen with tenderness.
Between excessively neurotic words, romantic music fills the silence. Amstell works with Klaxons frontman James Righton to craft a score that perfectly emulates the incommunicable feeling of butterflies in your stomach. Whether Benjamin is sitting on a bus or running to a gig, the moment he stops talking and starts thinking about Noah, this music picks up where his vocal excess left off. His personal becomes universal, as a sense of immediate nostalgia reaches out to anyone who’s ever loved someone.
It’s easy to dismiss a neat concept as a creative flex, with little lasting impact. But finding sincerity and affection in an embittered, increasingly cynical climate reveals wisdom beyond our years. Laughing is easy, loving is not – but Benjamin has the dexterity to do both.
|What||Benjamin film review|
15 Mar 19 – 15 Mar 20, TIMES VARY
|Price||£ determined by cinemas|
|Website||Click here for more information|