Here’s an interesting project from the film school at Falmouth University: a low-budget drama put together by four film-makers – including director Justin John Doherty and screenwriter Neil Fox, a Falmouth lecturer – with professional actors but otherwise crewed entirely by student first-timers skipping the intern phase. The result is rather lovely, a talky cine-literate portrait of a new relationship set in the 1960s. (I’m not sure you could make such an uncynical film about a couple falling in love in the present day.) It reminded me a little of Blue Valentine, without the messy raw bits, or the divorce – basically before Ryan Gosling gets a beer gut.
There’s a nice emotional fluency to James Barnes’s performance as John, a thoughtful jazz musician who drives with his new girlfriend Alice (Katharine Davenport) to a cottage by the sea for the weekend. There is terrific chemistry between the pair; they can’t keep their hands off each other. But John has a gnawing fear that it won’t last, that love will fade. Alice is sunnier-natured, a bit careless of other people’s feelings.
There are two crisis episodes over the weekend. John takes Alice for dinner at the house of old friends, another couple, who have left London. The husband Charlie (Sebastian Badarau) is a drummer who has given up touring to teach. Nothing much happens but it emerges that John hasn’t been honest about how well he knows the wife Francis (Bean Downes). Feeling betrayed, Alice ruthlessly flirts with both Charlie and Francis to punish him. Hungover the next day they get stranded on the beach as the tide comes in.
Everything plays out in absorbing emotional detail. My only reservation with the film is how tasteful it is – from Alice’s chic boyish haircut to the Scandi-chrome coffee pot and the sweat-free sex. And it’s out of politeness perhaps that the film avoids the issue of race. John is black, and Alice is white, and there’s a nasty incident on the beach when a dog tramples their picnic. Its owner, a tweed-capped toff, is blatantly racist; it’s as clear as daylight. The couple talk about everything, but not this?