SOUNDTRACK TO SIXTEEN…. But will Maisy make it?
Showing with style and dare, what can be done with zero budget, a dollop of good organisation and drive, ‘Soundtrack to Sixteen,’ is a brave first feature from director Hilary Shakespeare. Co written by her sister, Anna- Elizabeth, this is a fine example of what can be achieved with two people pulling together. Like a mini English example of the fabulous Wachowski sisters, or our very own master storytellers, the Nolan brothers, the Shakespeare sisters have pulled off a commendable first feature. Also, like other sibling teams, they also have a far stronger chance together, to overcome all the challenges and trials making any feature at any budget requires, and it is hoped will continue with this momentum into subsequent projects.
Choosing a ‘rite of passage,’ genre also helps, and if schedules match, colleges and schools are a great place to shoot first films. The cast, who all fit very well, are fairly unknown on the feature film stage, which also helps any zero-budget feature to take off.
The story centres upon ‘Maisy’, who comes across as a selfish, unlikeable teenager, with the all-consuming goal of scoring her first kiss. This seems a little implausible as Maisy is 17. However, the role of a self-conscious teenager is a tough one, and portraying those years when girls all change so much anyway is a tall order, but actress Scarlett Marshall gives it her best. James Galloway who plays Ben Maxwell, the ‘boy’ Maisy becomes friends with, is also the same age, but has an easier time of it. He throws himself into his role with equal enthusiasm and turns in a good performance. Also, both performers do mesh together very well, once the story gets going.
This is the key to ‘Soundtrack to Sixteen.’ A film primarily about learning to be yourself and relating, it feels disjointed at first, and the script is clumsy in places, right up until half way through. However, as these two millennials join forces to try and get through the teenage mine field intact, the film seems to pick up right along with them. Throughout the second part, you start to care about them, which you don’t at the start. This is not because they are unsympathetic at the start, but they are unrelatable, and uneven. However, teenage years are often the same uneven mix for many of us anyway, and this film is all about rough, raw, and ready, but it’s fair to say that this has been done better in other films. There again, it’s still a first film of any kind for the film makers, and it feels as if they all learnt as the film went on, along with the characters.
Visually unremarkable, ‘Soundtrack to Sixteen’, has no choice but to rely on story, which is only just working. Then again, the schedule was maybe very short, so it’s good all considered. However, the result is a ‘no frills, but does the job,’ style of storytelling, which is a shame, as a few good visuals could’ve really helped. All taken into consideration, this is an earnest, sincere little film that deserves its audience, and it is hoped, paves the way for the Shakespeare sisters to up their game, on a second feature, with more development of an ‘eye.’ Worth a shot for bored 15 year olds, cooped up at home.
SOUNDTRACK TO SIXTEEN is out now in the UK
*** 3 stars
Jane Alexandra Foster