"I often imagine how people would react to my death," admits Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts), the hero of this bittersweet coming-of-age tale. Cue bawling schoolgirls holding signs proclaiming, "We envy the angels!" It’s an indulgence everyone understands because we’ve all been pretentious teenagers. At least Oliver knows he’s ridiculous, even if he can’t help it. "Sometimes I wish there was a film crew following my every move," he sighs. In Richard Ayoade’s charming debut, to all intents and purposes, there is. More
Part swot, part stalker, Oliver is a "moderately unpopular" schoolboy in small-town 1980s Wales struggling with puberty, virginity and his social standing. He’s tried everything: pushing girls in puddles, listening to French crooners, even a brief hat phrase. But just as a fling with local bad girl Jordana (Yasmin Paige) looks set to solve all three, his parents (Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins)’ marriage is rocked by the reappearance of his mum’s ex (Paddy Considine).
Though the subject matter is nothing new – teens have been egregiously self-obsessed at least since 1951’s Catcher In The Rye – every aspect of the film thrums with quality. Ayoade’s direction is crisp and quirky, Alex Turner (of Arctic Monkeys) sings melancholy songs about quicksand and cold winds, and the performances are brilliant throughout, particularly one-to-watch Roberts and Considine in a mullet that would embarrass a Highlander. From falling in love to fleeing real emotions, the trials of teenage life have rarely been so exhilaratingly – or so excruciatingly – dramatised. Whether you’re 25 or 75 you’ll feel Oliver’s age again in a Polaroid flash. Hide