This dark, comedic drama from Australian director Sophie Hyde should delight anyone who watches it. It answers the call for more female-led stories, lets two up-and-coming stars shine in an unconventional setting, and should delight fans of the Emma Jane Unsworth book on which it is based.
Laura (Holliday Grainger) and Tyler (Alia Shawkat) have been friends forever, living in a shabby-chic flat in Dublin. They sleep in each other’s beds, untie each other after ill-advised sex sessions with unsuitable men, and share their drink and drugs in equal measure. They are living life like there’s no tomorrow. Except there is. It’s called 30 and it scares them both to death.
When Laura falls for the strait-laced Jim (Fra Fee), the girls’ nights of fun suddenly seem more messy than hedonistic. A scene in a club toilet where a coked-up Laura compliments her dealer on his lyrical name (he goes by Chicken Sandwich) feels very ‘Trainspotting’. But as the girls run around town stealing drugs and spilling wine on babies, it’s clear that ‘Withnail & I’ is the real inspiration.
Shawkat (‘Arrested Development’) is magnetic as the uncompromising, self-destructive Tyler, but our focus is always Laura. Grainger is both vulnerable and wonderfully unlikeable, as she dances around the idea of being a writer – and a grown-up – making a string of unwise decisions along the way.
If there’s anything missing in Hyde’s love letter to not growing up, it’s a sense of place. Unsworth’s novel is set in Manchester, and despite the shift of location it still feels like a northern tale at heart. For all the bars they visit and Irish poets they meet, Dublin never quite establishes itself as a character. But both Grainger and Shawkat have such adventures drinking and snorting their way through the film, that by the time the credits roll you won’t care too much.