Dating Amber

Review by Rich Cline | 4.5/5   MUST must see SEE

Dating Amber
dir-scr David Freyne
prd Rachael O'Kane, John Keville
with Fionn O'Shea, Lola Petticrew, Sharon Horgan, Barry Ward, Simone Kirby, Evan O'Connor, Ian O'Reilly, Emma Willis, Anastasia Blake, Lauryn Canny, Shaun Dunne, Peter Campion, Jonny Woo
release UK 5.Jun.20
20/Ireland 1h32

horgan ward kirby

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petticrew and o'shea
Mixing jagged humour with warmly honest undercurrents of emotion, this sharp Irish drama knowingly explores the subtle bigotry that only the vulnerable can even see. Writer-director David Freyne creates instantly engaging characters who are easy to identify with, and the situations are wonderfully well-observed, mining both comedy and some powerful honesty. It's a remarkably astute film, played to perfection by a gifted cast.
In rural Ireland in 1995, Eddie (O'Shea) knows there's something different about him, and he's tired of being pestered by classmates. So he agrees to go out with similarly bullied Amber (Petticrew). Simply to fit in and stop the haters, they agree to pose as a couple for the rest of the term. Despite their mismatched personalities, a warm friendship emerges as they embark on adventures together while discovering who they need to be and where they actually fit in. But this takes Eddie rather a lot longer than it does Amber.
"I'm not gay," Eddie protests from the start. "Yes you are," Amber says, "And so am I." Struggling to accept his sexuality, Eddie is joining the army to prove his manliness to his soldier dad Ian (Ward). Meanwhile, Amber sells time in an empty caravan to horny teens, raising money so she can open an anarchic bookshop in London. Their connection is sparky, constantly revealing unexpected angles as their bond deepens in various directions. And the road to self-discovery isn't remotely smooth, as they're understandably terrified of losing the life society wants them to have.

Both O'Shea and Petticrew are excellent, playing these oddball teens with details that make them believable and hugely likeable. Their banter continually uncovers new angles in their personalities and the link between them. It's a bracingly fresh mix of wit and dark emotion that speaks very strongly to anyone who has strained against expectations. Horgan and Ward are also terrific as Eddie's bickering parents, struggling with their own proscribed roles. And as Amber's worried mother, Kirby has some vivid scenes of her own.

There are several breathtaking moments in this film, such as a visit to a Dublin gay bar where Eddie and Amber have pivotal first encounters. And the film works beyond this important topic, exploring wider issues around masculinity and femininity in cultures that so insidiously push a specific path. It's exhilarating to watch Eddie and Amber discover ways they can be themselves and feel properly free. And it reminds us that only we can define ourselves. No one else has that right.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 7.Jun.20

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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall