Simon Amstell is well known for his cutting satirical comedy and his ability to weave this into ordinary situations while maintaining a love for his characters and their locations. His debut feature film does not disappoint, providing a rich romantic comedy alongside a sharp and extremely funny dissection of the film industry and art scene.
Benjamin (Colin Morgan) is desperate to relive the success of his first independent film; his head full of ideas, creative impulse and frustration, coupled with a deep anxiety over his abilities. Amstell’s lead character plays to his strengths in writing, with Colin Morgan giving us a lovable, self-conscious and self deprecating performance that is also full of passionate, wit and charm.
Benjamin is trapped in a cycle of artistic exploration and expectation as he strives to finish his second film. Alongside an artistic scene he finds restrictive and false, his insecurities, frustrations and sense of imminent failure build as his film awaits its premiere at Curzon Soho during The London Film Festival.
The festival scenes are beautifully observed comedy that anyone who has attended film festivals will recognise immediately. While the exploration of the wider London art scene is cutting and incredibly funny, from rolling in paper as an art form, to the grand opening of a chair. Amstell isn’t afraid to hold a mirror to and satirise the artistic community.
Benjamin is not however just a funny exploration of Londons artistic scene, it is a beautifully rich romantic comedy, containing a strong emotional resonance. It is a film that tenderly explores male friendship, vulnerability and needs. Benjamin’s best friend Steve (Joel Fry) needs his friends support and attention as much as Benjamin needs his reassurance and praise. A beautifully structured exploration of male friendship and belonging, that delivers joy and laughter in equal measure.
This is a film that truly shines in its realistic and tender exploration of love, as Benjamins anxious hopes for film success are replaced by a new romantic relationship with French musician Noah (Phenix Brossard). Amstell explores feelings of apprehension, fear of commitment and the joy and awkwardness of first dates in a way many other romantic comedies fail to grasp. While Morgan and Brossard explore male love and companionship with beauty, never resorting to damaging stereotypes.
Benjamins use of locations add to a feeling of authenticity and place. London is shown in a ‘real’ way, the city being used as backdrop to the normality, frustrations and humour of life and love. Benjamin is an assured and human romantic comedy that will leave you with a huge smile through its well crafted script, excellent performances and loving direction.
Benjamin is an absolute joy; extremely funny, warm and tender. Simon Amstell brings together an amazing cast for a beautiful romantic comedy. Continuing a fine British tradition of laugh out loud comedy alongside beautifully crafted characters and themes.