Life Just Is Movie Review
Although this introspective British film tackles themes that are rarely addressed on screen, its microscopic budget and inexperienced cast and crew make it very difficult to engage with. As it follows a group of friends in their early 20s grappling with mortality and faith, filmmaker Barrett shows that he has plenty of ambition, as well as a French-style approach to character-based drama.
When someone their age dies of a terminal illness, five 20-something London friends become obsessed with figuring out the meaning of life. Three guys share a house: shy David (De Meo), philosophical Pete (Gordon) and self-absorbed Tom (Martello-White). While their female friends Jay (Wisener) and Claire (Ryan) live nearby. Jay has an older boyfriend (Nicholls), who feels like an outsider compared to these aimless recent university graduates. And as they contemplate their purpose, Tom and Claire flirt half-heartedly with starting a relationship.
The fact that these people are all great pals is very hard to believe. They have little in common, which makes their interaction feel manufactured by the screenplay. This may make the yawning silences in their conversations feel realistic, but it also means that we never believe a single scene. And since the personality traits seem to have been carefully divided up between them, the premise feels like an existential version on Friends that never properly develops or explores its mopey characters.
That said, the film is bursting with big ideas that at least give us something to think about. At the centre is the idea that these young people are at a "pre-life crisis" point where they need to stop looking at who they will become and realise that they are already fully formed people who make their own decisions about their lives. So it's frustrating that none of the characters has the energy or spark of youth (Martello-White comes closest), and that Barrett shies away from both gritty reality and the potent force of sexuality. But at least he gets us pondering the idea that life is about the search, not knowing the answers.