Debut director Alex Barrett attempts to breathe new life into the Bergman-esque ensemble drama. The results are mixed, but show promise for the future.
"Well that was an hour and a half of my life I’m never getting back," says Pete (Jack Gordon) of the romance DVD he’s just watched with his friends. Pete objects to the "false hope" of "stupid, tacked-on happy endings". Claire (Fiona Ryan) reckons rom-coms deliver exactly "what people want", maintaining that "just because it’s not about a bunch of gloomy Scandinavians staring out to sea thinking about the meaning of life and the existence of God doesn’t make it shit."
David (Will de Meo) sits on the fence, while Tom (Nathaniel Martello-White) would have preferred some action. Returning to the apartment she shares with Jay (Jayne Wisener), Claire walks past a row of Halloween Jack-o'-lanterns. Skipping from romance to existential allegory, and from action to horror, the opening sequence of Life Just Is suggests a film in search of its own generic identity, much as these five friends, stuck in a holding pattern somewhere between carefree university days and the adult world, are all on a quest for meaning in their post-graduate lives.
Watching Pete’s crisis of faith/mental breakdown, Jay’s repetition of past relationship troubles, and Claire and Tom’s confused displacement of their mutual attraction, it’s all too easy to agree with the politely dismissive conclusion of Jay’s older boyfriend Bobby: "They’re just at that stage of their life, that’s all."
Writer/director Alex Barrett’s feature debut settles for rites-of-passage ensemble drama in a Bergman mould, but its stilted, awkward dialogue hardly improves upon the audible lines of the film-within-a-film critiqued in that opening scene. Barrett’s message, enshrined in his film’s title and summarised by Pete’s epiphany that "searching for the answer is the answer", is no less of a cliché than the reconciliation of parted lovers at the end of any romance.
Add the odd wooden performance and this is a little over 90 minutes of your life that you may wish to reclaim.
Could this be the first work of a new Brit indie talent?
Indistinct voices, stilted lives.
Captures the dullness of arrested youth all too well – and far too earnestly.