tue 23/07/2024

Albatross | reviews, news & interviews



Another low-budget British film doesn't come up to snuff

Jessica Brown Findlay and Felicity Jones in 'Albatross'

This is the kind of film you would very much like to like. It’s a low-budget British effort with a perfectly decent cast who are all easy on the eye. It makes the most of the windswept Isle of Man, where so many films just take advantage of tax breaks while pretending they’re in Barbados. You would like to like it. Unfortunately, as with so many low-budget British films, it just doesn’t come up to the mark.

Years ago, when single dramas still proliferated on terrestrial television, Albatross would have been a perfectly acceptable, slightly lightweight Screen Two. With that door now slammed firmly shut, such scripts jostle for the funding to be made for the big screen. How money is given to shoot scripts which fatally lack the necessary depth or ambition is an abiding affliction of the British film industry.

As a scenario it teeters swiftly into the realms of the implausible

The main headline is that Albatross stars Jessica Brown Findlay. Millions will recognise her as Lady Sybil, the youngest of the three sisters from Downton Abbey who is currently nursing sick chaps from the trenches and flirting with the Irish chauffeur. She’s altogether flightier in this, playing an orphaned tearaway called Emelia whose dreams of becoming a writer are fuelled when she takes a job as a cleaner in a south coast hotel co-owned by an émigré German novelist (Sebastian Koch). Their first meeting is not promising. She finds him in his eyrie, not writing but treating himself to what some would regard as the fairly adjacent activity of an internet-supported hand-shandy. Nonetheless, a kind of intellectual kinship develops, even as Emelia is befriending Beth, the embattled daughter of the house (Felicity Jones), and steering clear of the angry châtelaine (Julia Ormond), while occasionally popping home to look in on the ailing grandparents who brought her up.

As a scenario it teeters swiftly into the realms of the implausible. Emelia’s literary ambitions are underpinned by her belief that she is descended from Arthur Conan Doyle. Even as she’s pertly seducing the father, a stronger friendship with Beth develops which finds them both heading for Oxford for Beth’s university interview. The Oxford scenes, counterintuitively, lack any sort of intellectual or emotional honesty, instead trading in cliché and stereotype.

The revelation when it comes is fatally underpowered. Brown Findlay makes a sporting effort to seduce the audience – she even gamely flashes her breasts in an off-licence to prove she’s of legal age - but there’s simply not enough in the half-baked script to lend her much of a hand. It’s dispiriting to see Julia Ormond (pictured above), who at a similar stage in her career was getting much more meatily written roles than on offer here to either Brown Findlay or Jones, reduced to playing a bitter, failed actress with a fake tan. Koch, as a failed writer, isn’t able to do much more than look wistfully disappointed. Albatross is directed by Niall McCormick, whose more impressive list of television credits include the promising Hidden, the wonderful The Song of Lunch and the Thatcher biopic The Long Walk to Finchley. The screenplay is by first-time scriptwriter Tamzin Rafn. With luck she will get another chance to work on something heftier. In the meantime it gives one no pleasure to report that a film about the burning desire to write could have done with a lot more time in the oven.

Watch the trailer to Albatross


When single dramas still proliferated on terrestrial television, Albatross would have been a perfectly acceptable, slightly lightweight Screen Two


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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How can any honest reviewer find so much to whine about in one film. This is not a balanced review and, as such, is worthless. I have seen the film; i don't need to provide what I regard as wit in my review; and I am not drowning in my own venom. It's just a very good coming of age drama. Funny in parts, sad in others. Overall, a complete package. Low budget, yes, but all the better for it. The director had to squeeze the best from everything at his disposal to maximise his spend and he did a great job with an excellent script. I would like to see the reviewer's point of view , but I can't get my head far enough up my own backside

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