Love, relationships, death and the meaning of life are the prevalent themes in director Alex Barrett’s independent feature film debut.
relationships, death and the meaning of life are the prevalent themes in
director Alex Barrett’s independent feature film debut. Life
Just Is pulls focus on one week in the lives of a group of recent
university graduates as they struggle to adapt to real life after university.
Tom, Pete, Claire, David and Jay live near one another in
London, quietly drifting through life, working through the day and getting
together in the evening for warm chats, sing-alongs and movies. However this is no episode of Friends, it has much more of the
essence of This Life. The characters in the film are most
definitely stereotypes, yet the issues they confront are not those you would
normally associate with the typical student. Sex, drugs and excessive alcohol are absent here, instead
replaced by real relationships, difficult life events and philosophical
thoughts on life. They each
desperately want to move on with their lives but can never quite get there and
they seem lost in a world of social awkwardness and inadequacy.
The performances in Life Just Is are predominantly
strong. Fiona Ryan’s Claire is warm and genuine while Jack Gordon’s Pete is the despondent, existentialist thinker, tired
of the uncertainty of the direction in which his life is heading and suffering
from a spiritual crisis. There is also
a decent performance from the once clean-cut, soap opera prettyboy Paul Nicholls as Jay’s older, unshaven,
but still cute, boyfriend.
Although the characters in general are pretty likeable, each with their
own kind of vulnerability, they are not always entirely believable and at times
are prone to one too many deadpan looks or moments of overreaction. Jay is slowly pushing her new boyfriend
away with her lack of confidence and apparent inability to show emotion. She may be a difficult character to
play but Jayne Wisener’s performance
comes across a little flat and tedious.
Nathaniel Martello-White as
Tom and Will de Meo as David are
passably interesting and sweet but never quite strong enough to make you care
Oddly, these characters are living in pretty nice digs for folks
in post-student life – although minimal, their homes are adorned with flowers
and throws, with not a baked bean stain or cigarette butt in sight. Although it can be irritating at times,
the slow camera work does allow you time to mull over the action, long,
contemplative camera shots used to reflect the emotions of the characters at
tumultuous times, creating atmosphere and tension even if, at times, they drag
a little too long. The strength of
this film lies in the fact it refuses a soundtrack in favour of complete
reliance on dialogue and emotional expression.
Barrett has put in a strong effort at reflecting a typical
week in the life of young adults.
There are romantic dilemmas between Tom and Claire and also Jay and her
older man, as well as allusions about life, ambition and dealing with the death
of a young friend. However,
Barrett clearly has more to say with the onset of Pete’s spiritual crisis as he
becomes racked nightly by supposed visions of St. Francis but the film then
becomes a haphazard mesh of reality and philosophy. Whenever the film moves in the direction of a
particular sub-story, it then changes direction again in favour of
another. This not only downplays
each difficulty the characters are attempting to overcome but also Pete’s anguish
and so the film never really reaches the heights that it clearly intended.
Life Just Is may be on the pretentious side, a little morose
and dreary. It is however funny
and easy to watch and it is refreshing to see a different take on social mores
and human behaviour.