An anti-Brid­get Jones for the Fleabag gen­er­a­tion

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

DAPHNE Di­rected by Peter Mackie Burns. Star­ring Emily Beecham, Geral­dine James, Tom Vaugh­an­Lawlor, Nathaniel Martello-White, Osy Ikhile, Sinead Matthews, Stu­art McQuar­rie. Club, IFI mem­bers, 87mins There’s quite rightly a great deal of buzz around Peter Mackie Burns’s spiky de­but fea­ture.

Daphne, a char­ac­ter study that, much like its sub­ject, re­fuses to con­form to neat, trite ex­pec­ta­tions (as mar­vel­lously in­hab­ited by Emily Beecham) is an ap­peal­ing mess of un­cer­tain­ties.

A thir­tysome­thing Lon­doner who quotes Slavoj Zizek to some­times smart and some­times pre­ten­tious ef­fect, this anti-Brid­get Jones seems to be wasted in her kitchen job. Or per­haps the kitchen job is wasted on her? She drinks too much and ca­su­ally does hookups and drugs, but not to tragic or de­struc­tive ef­fect. (Classic Daphne mo­ment: “When­ever I do coke, I think about Freud,” she tells one snort­ing com­pan­ion.) She end­lessly bick­ers with her mother (Geral­dine James), and is an all-round dif­fi­cult sod.

She’s ob­streper­ous, but funny-ob­streper­ous. The kind of per­son who loudly de­clares that she has “given up on peo­ple” only to stum­ble home to look at pic­tures of Ryan Gosling on­line while eat­ing a bucket of fried chicken. When she un­suc­cess­fully at­tempts to slip past bounc­ers at a club door, they are more than a lit­tle be­mused by her ban­ter: “You, sir, are a fab­u­lous c**t,” she shouts haugh­tily, as she re­treats into the night.

And then, in com­mon with Ken­neth Lon­er­gan’s Mar­garet, Daphne wit­nesses a ran­dom act of vi­o­lence. She moves on, dis­misses the in­ci­dent in a glib, drunken sound­bite and pro­ceeds to un­ravel. Not too much: just enough to po­ten­tially screw things up for­ever.

Hap­pily, Nico Mensinga’s script never moralises in the man­ner of “bad things hap­pen to bad girls”. Chats with a po­lice-ap­pointed psy­chol­o­gist (Stu­art McQuar­rie) make for slow, steady progress. Two po­ten­tial suit­ors – in­clud­ing Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Daphne’s ador­ing, cheese-shar­ing boss, and charm­ing wannabe boyfriend David (Nathaniel Martello-White) – drift in and out of the film with­out trip­ping white-knight or friend-zone alarms.

Adam Scarth’s cin­e­matog­ra­phy and Joakim Sund­ström’s sound de­sign are im­pres­sive; Beecham provides the fire­works. Her vibrant turn as a thor­oughly mod­ern Mil­lie has been var­i­ously compared to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag and Lena Dunham’s Girls. It’s more pleas­ingly con­trar­ian than even those com­par­isons sug­gest. TARA BRADY

An all-round dif­fi­cult sod: Emily Beecham in Daphne

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