Rose is new to Brighton. She is leaving something relatively unpleasant (but not specifically explained) behind her and is seeking to create a new life for herself and although naturally shy, she manages to strike up conversations and burgeoning friendships with a pleasant mix of people – homeless Joe, barman Harry, half-naked housemate Kyle and underpants wearing launderette user Carlos. Over the course of a few days she chats with them, plays music to them and mingles at parties, whilst trying to feel at home in a lovely but unfamiliar city.
Cards on the table time – I approached this film with no small amount of trepidation, having learned that it hailed from Jamie Patterson, the writer and director of Billboard, a film I had little time for. But (and it is a big but), such apprehension was unwarranted, for here we indeed have a true hidden gem of a film, a wonderful, funny, charming, sweet little number that will hopefully find a wide audience and much-warranted acclaim for all involved.
Rose is played by Ellen Cosgrove, the Dublin-born lead singer of Brighton-based Ellen and The Echo. Although her vocals are threaded through the film, whether in scenes of her playing and singing, or over the top of the on-screen action, her presence as lead actress is warranted on merit. This is no mere showcase for her talents as a singer-songwriter and she proves herself to be a capable, affecting, affable actress, enjoying the quirky (but not annoyingly so) charms of her new-found friends and squirming with genuine embarrassment as she messes up from time to time.
Although the rest of the cast are far from faultless, they are a talented group of players and they convey their respective characters well. As Harry, Rose’s new found friend, Ross Scarfield is genuine and friendly, but with his own (believably portrayed) hang-ups and Eddy Brimson handles the film’s main emotionally affecting scene as Joe, a homeless guy who finally tells Rose how he came to be on the streets. The real finds here though are Amanda Piery and George Webster as Rose’s new housemates, Nicole and Kyle. They are at times laugh out loud funny and always endearing, handling their scenes with confidence and ability. Characters that could have been irritating, “kooky” caricatures wind up instead being kind, sweet and silly.
While far from incident-packed, there is enough going on to fill out the running time. Although for the most part Rose walks from encounter to encounter, stopping off at the occasional gig or party and we hear a lot of authentic Brighton music, there is never any danger of being bored, the natural performances and appealing characters keeping us hooked to see how it all pans out, even if we do have the sneaky suspicion that it is all going to resolve itself a little too smoothly. That easy resolution to the different story strands might grate with some, though by then enough goodwill has been won to carry us through, especially with Rose’s question at one point, “do you believe in fairy tales?” – there is a sense of walking through a slightly idealised version of Brighton, where it is not unreasonable to see everything tied up with a bow as the curtain falls.
This will not be to everyone’s tastes. Some will find it too twee, or lacking in dramatic heft, or too much of a gentle amble along one person’s week, but those are not criticisms by this reviewer, simply an acknowledgement that not everyone will find what they are looking for here. But if you come expecting a funny, sweet, engaging film, showcasing some superlative music and taking us on an enjoyable voyage with Rose as she tries to settle into an unfamiliar place, you will come away happy. Even now, a week on, I still walk along humming the music and chuckling at Kyle’s film-stealing scenes. The film had a brief run at the Duke of York cinema in Brighton, but it is unclear how soon it will be available on the big or small screen. Track it down any way you can.