Simon Amstell’s new film, Benjamin, arrives on digital demand followings its theatrical run – and here’s our review.
Director: Simon Amstell
Cast: Colin Morgan, Phenix Brossard, Anna Chancellor
Release date: On digital formats now
Reviewer: Simon Brew
For his second film as writer/director – following 2017’s Carnage – Simon Amstell has picked quite a sombre comedy, telling the story of a film director in the build-up to the release of, well, his second feature film. That would be the Benjamin of the title, played by Colin Morgan, and whilst his star is very much on the rise, there’s the constant fear that his second film is going to bring things tumbling down.
At the best of times, the character of Benjamin is a cauldron of insecurities, anxieties and often uneasiness. As he fusses over his film’s premiere, there’s a potential romance in his life too, and a struggle to interact well with other human beings. It’s credit to Amstell’s script and Morgan’s performance that a character who’s not always an easy one to like is ultimately someone you want to support. It helps that the film itself is quietly confident, unfussy and relatively calm, with an economic running time. We can see things going awry, but – because events play out quite quietly – it feels all the more real and believable. Amstell bases his film in and around London and, alongside Morgan, draws strong work from his cast (including a pair of delightful cameos).
Crucially, though, there’s humanity and heart at the core of the film. It’s the kind of movie that rarely finds its home in a cinema, but perhaps deserves to. It needs and warrants the attention span a cinema audience can offer for it to fully work. Even then, it’s hard to see everyone fully getting on board and rooting for the main character, and as such Benjamin may leave a few people cold. Yet go with it, and Amstell’s assured, absorbing movie is the kind of feature that sticks around in your head for days afterwards.