Wind swept, wellchewed scenery

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

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.

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