Self-confessed indie film Booked Out feels – for the first half an hour – like an episode of Skins.
indie film Booked Out feels – for the first half an hour – like an episode of
Maybe it’s just not the ‘Hollywood’ finish we’re accustomed to but there’s
something immediately uneasy about the unfamiliar faces and stripped back
location that makes everything feel a bit, well, flat.
And that’s before the guitar strumming soundtrack gets started.
Booked Out is the first outing for writer and director Bryan O’Neil, telling the tale of
aspiring graphic novelist Ailidh (Mirren
Burke) and the lives of those who also call her Battersea block of flats
Ailidh, with her mismatching clothes and quirky sense of sarcastic
humour, is a true eccentric, who has become quietly obsessed with keeping up
with the lives of her fellow residents. Especially Jacob (Rollo Weeks), of Girl With
The Pearl Earring and The Little Vampire
fame; a young chap with floppy hair and a tentative smile who visits the
flat opposite every day. She’s even taken to photographing his every entry into
and exit from the flats.
Despite such attention to detail, she does, however, remain oblivious to
the truth about Jacob’s desperately sad and reclusive female friend, Jacqueline
(Claire Garvey) and the reason for
his frequent visits. And credit where credit’s due, so does the viewer.
The interactions between these three characters, and the lonely lady
upstairs still doting on her dead husband (Sylvia
Syms), form the basis of what eventually evolves into a fairly fuzzy
exploration of love and loss in London.
Beneath the slightly wooden exterior and kitschy opening credits, there
is a slushy undertone that does eventually take the viewer in. It’s thought
provoking in the sense that it reminds us of the little eccentricities in all
of us, the ever intertwined lives we lead, and what we forget to prioritise in
our pursuit of happiness. As Jacob puts it in one of the first scenes, it
reminds us why we should ‘like being weird’.
What the film does irritatingly seem to gloss over is that tracking
someone’s every movement is usually considered quite socially unacceptable, and
a hobby that shouldn’t be rewarded – at one point we even see a giddy Ailidh
dancing round to music with a Polaroid photo of Jacob. It appears that we are
expected to find such commitment to the cause endearing and revel in her
neurosis rather than express concern for his welfare.
In many ways we can understand Ailidh’s affection for Jacob – he’s
mysterious and unassuming – and he does own a nice cardigan or two. There’s
something appealing about Weeks’ boyish charm and while at points his lines are
few, he has genuine warmth and presence. Burke on the other hand takes some
getting used to. There’s something initially grating about her melodic Scottish
trill, which combined with an abundance of eccentric energy, risks erring a
little on the side of children’s TV presenter as the plot warms up and the
pair’s adventures begin.
And warm up it does, as the characters begin to flesh themselves out and
the story starts to gather momentum through our two protagonists. There are
some standout moments from Garvey and Syms
too, adding depth and a tinge of sadness to the mainly upbeat storyline.
Essentially, its simplicity starts to grow on you as the story twists
and winds. As does Ailidh – sort of. It could, admittedly, be the fancy dress
party that sees her don an inventive ‘pengaroo’ costume that marks the
Ultimately, this film has all the right intentions, and does boast a
certain charm: it’s quirky and indie, just as it sets out to be. However, while
it will tickle certain film fans’ tastebuds and no doubt provide a springboard for
these young actors’ careers, it sadly winds up falling short of entirely