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Film Of The Week: Benjamin

MARIA DUARTE recommends a bitter-sweet comedy about love, pretentiousness in the art world and the perils of film-making

Benjamin (15)
Directed by Simon Amstell

SIMON AMSTELL wears his heart on his protagonist’s sleeve in Benjamin.

At a special Q&A screening at the Curzon Soho — where this film within a film was partly shot, a surreal experience — Amstell revealed how he wanted to figure out what was “wrong” with him in his 20s in the film and how it is inspired by former relationships.

It follows rising young film-maker Benjamin (Colin Morgan) as he is thrown into emotional and existential turmoil by a blossoming romance with young French musician and singer Noah (Phenix Brossard) and the upcoming premiere at the London Film Festival of his long-awaited follow-up feature entitled No Self.

Unable to cope with the disastrous reception of his new film, including a damning review by renowned critics Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo — who provide hilarious cameos — and with Noah revealing that he isn't ready for a relationship, Benjamin suffers a meltdown.

He retreats to his north London flat with his cat, where he overeats on ice cream and watches meditation videos on YouTube.

Morgan delivers a phenomenal central performance as he captures the character’s socially awkward, depressive and self-absorbed nature.

And Amstell has come up with a very intimate, painfully funny yet raw and emotionally honest snapshot of life at that age which skilfully balances comedy with drama.

He pokes fun at the pretentiousness of the industry and some of the people in it as Benjamin is forced to attend a launch party by his pushy press rep Billie (Jessica Raine) and later watches the contemporary dance work of a woman covered in paper pretending to be inside a womb and kicking her way out.

Unlike Benjamin, Amstell has little to fear. He shows here what a skilled and self-assured film-maker he has grown into with this affecting little gem.

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