Making its world premier at the EIFF 2011, Niall MacCormick’s coming-of-age comedy-drama Albatross is destined to be one of the most talked about and beloved British films of the year, not least because it balances feel-good laughs with pertinent issues for all ages.
The film follows would-be writer Emelia (Jessica Brown Findlay) who takes a job as a cleaner in a seaside hotel owned by frustrated writer Jonathan (Sebastian Koch) and his family. She soon befriends his daughter, Beth (Felicity Jones), and naively gets involved with the writer while dealing with her personal issues and home life.
Aside from the brilliantly observant script by Rafn, the cast is what makes Albatross work so well. Standing out is Koch (world cinema fans will recognise him as the lead from the Oscar-winning The Lives of Others) as Jonathan who seems unable to resist Emilia who comes along at just the right/wrong moment (depending on how you look at it) as he is struggling to replicate his earlier literary success and when his marriage is beginning to break down; Felicity Jones as Jonathan’s hopeful student who starts to let her hair down; and particularly relative newcomer Findlay as the charming and conflicted Emelia who comes into this family’s life like a whirlwind.
The film jumps effortlessly between touching human drama and true-to-life humour (sometimes from one moment to the next), never once feeling like its two types of movies vying for screen-time as is so often the case. Everything from the forbidden relationship between Jonathan and Emelia to her complicated home life rings entirely true, belying the inexperience of Rafn as a screenwriter.
Albatross is exactly what you hope for from a coming-of-age “dramedy”: cute without being schmaltzy, sweet without being sickly, insightful without being preachy. With a dynamite debut script from Rafn, Albatross is just about as good as this sort of thing gets and is easily one of the best films of the EIFF 2011 thus far.