Oliver (Roberts) is a fairly typical teen who hasn't quite figured out who he is meant to be. While waiting to discover what his "thing" is, he falls for Jordana (Paige), a girl who's far cooler than he is. And he can't believe his luck when they start developing a relationship. But at the same time, he realises that his parents (Hawkins and Taylor) seem to be falling apart, as his mother is spending a little too much time with a hippie-ninja neighbour (Considine) who happens to be her ex.
Yes, the plot sounds fairly traditional, with a boy on the verge of discovery both of himself and the realities of the world around him. But this story, based on a novel by Joe Dunthorne, refuses to take the standard route, swirling around Oliver in continually intriguing ways that draw us into his perspective.
We see several scenes through his imagination - dreams and fantasies that are loosely based on fact but give us a powerful glimpse into his soul.
And even though he's a complex kid who does a lot of very stupid things, we can't help but like him. Roberts' performance feels offhanded and effortless, but sharply catches Oliver's nerd-on-the-verge-of-genius persona, and his interaction with Paige is prickly and often hilarious. In addition, Considine and Taylor are terrific as very different men, while Hawkins shines as Oliver's straight-talking but deeply insecure mother. This is one of her most radiant performances yet, which is saying a lot, and it's even more powerful because of the character's brittle honesty.
Filmmaker Ayoade packs the movie with witty touches, fresh effects work and artful cinematic approaches to things like first love and family values, all without getting sentimental. The camera work is sharp and often wickedly astute, and the film is beautifully punctuated with extremely effective songs by Alex Turner (of the Arctic Monkeys). Intriguingly, it's impossible to place the period, which has a the colourfully engaging 70s-80s vibe. But it's the snappy dialog and vivid characters that stick with us.
Run time: 97 mins
In Theaters: Friday 18th March 2011
Box Office USA: $0.5M
Box Office Worldwide: $3.5M
Distributed by: The Weinstein Company
Production compaines: Film4, Film Agency for Wales, Red Hour Films, Warp (Submarine), Warp Films
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Fresh: 123 Rotten: 20
IMDB: 7.3 / 10
Director: Richard Ayoade
Producer: Mary Burke, Mark Herbert, Andy Stebbing
Screenwriter: Richard Ayoade
Starring: Craig Roberts as Oliver Tate, Sally Hawkins as Jill Tate, Paddy Considine as Graham Purvis, Noah Taylor as Lloyd Tate, Gemma Chan as Kim-Lin, Yasmin Paige as Jordana Bevan, Darren Evans as Chips, Osian Cai Dulais as Mark Pritchard, Lily McCann as Zoe Preece, Otis Lloyd as Keiron, Elinor Crawley as Abby Smuts, Steffan Rhodri as Mr. Davey, Melanie Walters as Jude Bevan, Sion Tudor Owen as Brynn Bevan, Lydia Fox as Miss Dutton, Ben Stiller as Soap Opera Star
Also starring: Richard Ayoade