Who's In It: Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige, Noah Taylor, Sally Hawkins, Paddy Considine
The Basics: It's the mid-1980s and 15-year-old Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) lives in a never-sunny Wales where he spends a lot of time moping. But he does have three life goals: to woo a dark-haired, eczema-afflicted grouchy girl (Yasmin Paige, whose passing resemblance to '60s French New Wave star Anna Karina couldn't not have been a consideration in the casting process); to prevent his parents from divorcing even though they can hardly stand each other anymore; and to be the most misunderstood person in his village. The last quest is never overtly stated, just taken as given. And if you're the kind of moviegoer who'll immediately recognize that a scene in a gloomy teen agony-comedy where the young lovers kiss under a bridge and wind up with injured lips is an unspoken yet literal interpretation of a lyric from the Smiths song "Still Ill," then you're exactly the person this film was made for.
What's The Deal:Every few years the collective vibrating teen demand for a movie about an adolescent weirdo who's better than his/her surroundings somehow gives birth to exactly that kind of movie. Rushmore, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Pretty in Pink, Heathers, Ghost World, Donnie Darko and on and on. "I wish there was a film that followed my every move," says Oliver. And he gets his wish, as a Chex Mix-y mash-up of early Godard, Wes Anderson, Francois Truffaut and John Hughes (on a really depressed day) unspools, starring him and a female lust object who's almost never seen not wearing a bright red parka. It's less spontaneously funny than you might want it to be and much, much darker complected than if it had been shot in the San Fernando Valley, but it's also exactly right for this crummy moment in time, perfectly withholding all affection. Remember high school as the best time of your life? Good for you; now go watch Top Gun again, instead.
Will Suffer--Or Maybe Benefit--Most From: Bad release date timing. It prominently features, without much commentary, some very unpleasant teen-on-teen physical and psychological torment. It's frequent and it's mean and it's committed by most of the film's young characters at least once, including the kids the audience is meant to like. In the time of "It Gets Better" videos and anti-bullying measures instituted in more and more schools, the unflinching realism--sometimes even played for mirthless laughs--daringly sticks out like a sore thumb.
From The Mind Of A Guy Who Stars On A Show You Might Have Never Heard Of: Writer/director Richard Ayoade was (and still is) the star of the British sitcom The IT Crowd and an occasional presence on The Mighty Boosh. If you're a fan of both of those shows then you've already stopped reading this review and are busy ordering your tickets. In fact, the past few weeks have turned into a kind of gathering IT Crowd storm now that Ayoade's co-star Chris O'Dowd is busy playing the Kristen Wiig-romancing Irish cop in Bridesmaids.