Directed By Niall MacCormick.
'Albatross' Flies With Humour And Heart
"Albatross" - noun
1. a large seabird that spends most of its life in flight.
2. An oppressive and inescapable fact or influence from the past.
Seventeen year old Emilia is a force of nature; beautiful, smart but most of all trouble. Taking up work in a seaside hotel she finds herself drawn to the family who run it.
Jonathan (Sebastian Koch), a successful writer in his younger days, spent the earnings of his only hit book on the hotel he and his family run, since then he has suffered from serious writers block. Jonathan decides to take Emilia under his wing and help her with her own ambitions of being a writer. Emilia believes that writing is in her blood, with a family name like Conan-Doyle, it is inevitable that she too will be a success. But as the pair spend more time together it's not too long before the relationship begins to cross the teacher-pupil line.
It would be easy for the role of Emilia to be portrayed in a typical, teenage angst ridden way, dark and full of hatred. But instead, thanks to the fresh and witty writing, Emilia seems independent and spirited, a bit childish in her behaviour maybe, but fun and care free, doing exactly what she pleases, even if it is not always for the best.
Similarly with Jonathan, an affair with a teenage girl could have made him simply come across as the seedy older man, but instead we almost feel sorry for him, he is just someone struggling to regain his own credibility, not only in his writing but in his marriage too. Jonathan's wife Joa (Julia Ormand) can only resent her husband, after giving up her 'promising acting career' to have a family. She also has had to struggle with running the hotel alone, as he trudges along with his writing. Family rows spill over to their working life as guests become disenchanted by the fact that the hotel is not exactly the magical establishment written about in Jonathan's best-selling novel.
The relationships in Albatross are complicated ones, writer Tamzin Rafn initially wrote the film with the character of Emelia (loosely based on a younger version of herself) in the forefront, saying she enjoyed "finding more things for her to do, more naughty things, more ways for her to be funny." But when British director Niall MacCormick came on board, he found the most interesting relationship in the screenplay was that of Emilia and Beth (Felicity Jones), Jonathan and Joa's teenage daughter, deciding to explore the chemistry between the two girls and making the story into more of a triangle.
Beth is quite the opposite of Emilia, studious and serious and has plans to leave her small coastal home town and study medicine at university. As Beth becomes closer to Emilia, she begins to loosen up and enjoy being seventeen, much to her mothers disappointment.
But the great thing about this story is that it never treads too far into familiar territory, although Beth begins to see there is more to life than studies, she never completely abandons her own identity and ambitions, instead only adding to them. All of the characters in fact are multi-faceted, each having their own personality whilst they are also just as flawed as real people. This realness is what gives each of them different and interesting story arcs throughout the film.
Tamzin and Niall have brought us a British coming of age movie, with a difference. Although full of drama and emotion, it never needlessly wallows in the negative, giving an equal balance of humour and heart.
Shot over six weeks of winter on the Isle of Man, the breathtaking, craggy scenery adds depth, whilst still sticking to the themes of the film. Beautiful with some hardship, but in no way depressing.
It is British actress Jessica's portrayal of Emilia that brings us the most interesting aspects of the story. We feel as though this is a character we might have seen before, but brought to us in a new and unique package. Jessica who was a relative new-comer at the time she won the role, now can be seen on the ITV hit Downton Abbey. Captivating with a mischievous charm, we root for Emeila through the good and the bad. Being the great-granddaughter of the infamous Sherlock Holmes writer is something she is proud to try and live up to, but it could be that the connection is simply an Albatross that is hanging round her neck.
A sweet, funny a charming British comedy.