Colin Morgan plays the eponymous Benjamin, Amstell’s avatar in BENJAMIN.
BENJAMIN is comedian Simon Amstell’s second film (after Carnage). Like his comedy, it’s self-reflexive, almost brutally revealingly so. Look-and-soundalike (apart from the Irish accent) Colin Morgan plays the eponymous Benjamin, Amstell’s avatar in BENJAMIN.
Like Amstell, Morgan’s Benjamin is a gay vegan film director/screenwriter, contorted with excruciating self-doubt and self-conscious social embarrassment. Benjamin is about to present his second film at the London Film Festival (Amstell’s Benjamin also premiered there in 2018 in reality). Fear of the screening and the appearance he must make there puts Benjamin in emotional turmoil.
BENJAMIN is revealing, personal and bittersweet.
I love Amstell’s comedy work live and on television, though it can be so lacerating as to be painful to watch. In Amstell’s film, Benjamin wonders with quiet despair, amid the self-flagellating chaos of his life, if he can ever find someone to love him. But when he meets and falls for young French musician Noah (Phénix Brossard), who seems a perfect partner for him, it seems that he can’t allow himself to just be happy – yet.
BENJAMIN is set in London’s hipster media scene around Hoxton in east London, among aspiring creatives – writers and actors (Jack Rowan). It’s a world of solitary working on laptops, press launches, music and comedy gigs, and a lot of creative angst. Amstell wittily satirises its pretensions. Ellie Kendricks puts in a turn as a performance artist whose work consists of fighting her way out of a roll of brown paper, to everyone except Benjamin’s adulation.
Benjamin’s breezy, incorrigible publicist Billie is Jessica Raine, whose shy, self-deprecating client is a constant challenge to her. Anna Chancellor is his producer. Joel Fry is Benjamin’s friend Stephen, an unfunny stand-up comic, whose farewell gig is possibly the most toe-curling scene in the film. And Nathan Stewart-Jarrett is a tartly hostile ex-boyfriend, who outrageously interrupts a meet-the-parents occasion.
The film is revealing, personal and bittersweet. It unerringly nails a certain kind of contemporary arty milieu and has a great soundtrack, partly co-written by Amstell himself, also on release now.
BENJAMIN will be released in UK Cinemas from 15th March 2019, courtesy of Verve Pictures.