It might be a little too straightforward and soft around the edges, but it’s rare to find a film with this much charm and sincerity.
In the attic room of a yellow-brick guesthouse in a quaint south-coast town, a novelist is lost for words. Jonathan Fischer (Sebastian Koch) has built a reputable career on being beside the seaside, but this latest bout of writer’s block has come with a nasty side effect of cold, hard reality: it’s been decades since his last best-seller. He’s washed up. His family and business are slowly drifting out of view.
Enter Emelia (Jessica Brown Findlay), a lippy, capricious teen who breezes into the Fischer abode like a gust of salty air, ruffling the feathers of clucky matriarch Joa (Julia Ormond) and befriending bookworm daughter Beth (Felicity Jones). A relative of Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, Emelia has her own claim to literary fame and her passion for prose (read: minxy disposition) quickly catches Jonathan’s eye.
The Lives of Others star Koch puts in a deceptively amiable performance but it’s newcomer Brown Findlay (who came close to landing the lead in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland) who steals it. Emelia may be the aggravator of the crisis, but Brown Findlay’s spunky effervescence provides the perfect front for a character that commands deep empathy. Not just for the shadow cast over her by some distant branch of her family tree, but because her bolshy independence is in fact a means of lightening the sense of abandonment that hangs about her neck like a lodestone.
Like its tranquil shoreline setting, Albatross is a patchwork of British clichés. Think Life is Sweet meets Fish Tank, minus the sweet tooth and gritty social commentary. Yet only the most hardened cynic would deride director Niall MacCormick and writer Tamzin Rafn for distilling a domestic storm into a teacup. It might be a little too straightforward and soft around the edges, but it’s rare to find a film with this much charm and sincerity.
British dramedy goes to the seaside.
Strong performances give wings to a featherweight story.
Jessica Brown Findlay is an awesome young talent.