Wind swept, wellchewed scenery
Alex Lawther, the teen who proved capable of keeping pace with Benedict Cumberbatch in his role as the younger Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, plays Elliot, a poetry-writing 15-year-old who removes his French-revolutionary-style jacket only to go swimming.
Eliot has recently decamped to the family holiday home in the south of France with his mother Beatrice (Juliet Stevenson). Their purpose, we soon realise, is to lock up their things ahead of the property’s imminent sale and Beatrice’s impending divorce.
When Eliot’s father finally does appear, he is as aloof as his mother is vulnerable. Beatrice can scarcely contain her distress, but the age-appropriately narcissistic Eliot is only concerned with the possible courtship of Clement, a local boy Eliot has spied skinny-dipping in a nearby reservoir.
Clement’s mother is terminally ill, which may account for his closeness to Beatrice, a bond that makes for a rather sticky triangle.
This assured debut from writer-director Andrew Stegal offers a familiar coming-of-age narrative with novel sexual hues.
Stevenson has seldom been better in a role that might easily have bounced into the red, while Lawther’s range of facial expressions would alone make for compelling drama.
Repeating a trick perfected by fellow British auteur Joanna Hogg, Steggall has managed the not inconsiderable feat of making well-heeled middle class folks – not one of contemporary cinema’s favourite demographics – look complicated and sympathetic.
The technical work is also very accomplished. Brian Fawcett’s photography fills the eye. Jools Scott’s score is restrained to a fault.
This is a team to watch.