‘I just want someone to say, “You’ve done a good thing, now you can rest.”’ So says a weary Benjamin (Colin Morgan) after screening his first film and resting in the lap of his producer Tessa (Anna Chancellor). But perpetual worrier Benjamin soon finds something else to fixate on: a new romance with sensitive singer-songwriter Noah (Phénix Brossard) – if only he could stop self-sabotaging.
While Simon Amstell is clearly on familiar territory in London’s arty scene, this film isn’t strictly autobiographical – the only stand-up comedian is Benjamin’s friend Stephen. But there’s a withering authenticity to the quickfire dialogue, particularly in the case of Billie (a hilarious Jessica Raine), a sort-of publicist who blasts through parties and men a drink at a time.
Less easy to watch are Benjamin’s attempts to make small talk and maintain a relationship: while initially funny, his insecurity becomes less entertaining and sympathetic the more it’s highlighted (comparisons with early Woody Allen are inevitable but not necessarily favourable). But ‘Benjamin’ is perhaps not always intended to be an easy watch: some scenes are so intimate you feel like you’re spying on someone.
It is an unusual mix of intense, angsty character-driven drama and laugh-out-loud jokes about the film industry. It’ll be best enjoyed by those who live in the milieu it depicts, along with fans of Amstell’s bittersweet wit – and there’s probably overlap between the two.