Director: David Freyne
Writer: David Freyne
Starring: Fionn O’Shea, Lola Petticrew, Sharon Horgan
Genre: Drama / Comedy
In Ireland in the 1990s, due to the extreme levels of peer pressure at their school, two closeted teens named Amber (Petticrew) and Eddie (O’Shea) decide to start a fake relationship. However, as they get to know one another and in-turn discover more about themselves, this leads to inevitable tensions and complications.
The starting point to many films is of course the ‘odd couple’ and this wonderful and engaging film takes what is a very simple initial premise and skilfully uses this to produce a film with a surprising amount of emotional depth.
Through some very funny, well-observed and relatable school-based scenes David Freyne is able to introduce us to the chalk and cheese couple and develop their characters very well to allow us to understand their situation and truly sympathise with them. What is an essential element of what makes Dating Amber a genuinely involving film is that both Amber and Eddie are very well developed characters; though there are playful uses of stereotypes of both of the protagonists (she’s the ‘manly’ one and he is the ‘feminine’ one) and the rest of the horny teens that they go to school with, these never resort to lazy or clichéd character tropes as both Amber and Eddie have their own personal issues produced from their unique homelives.
Of course, Ireland is a deeply religious country, and so the film’s setting of place and time adds extra prevalence to the story and the personal struggles and oppressions of both of the protagonists. Though acceptance has improved in the last couple of decades, the film does serve as a timely reminder that there is still unnecessary stigma attached to sexuality, which can have a damaging psychology effect on the individual.
As Amber and Eddie’s ‘relationship’ develops we are treated to several delightful montages of them together which often produces moments of great humour. Of course, the film has to then figure out what to do with its very simple but effective narrative concept, and it does this with great aplomb. Amber and Eddie are at completely different stages of acceptance of their sexualities, and it is this emotionally engaging element that then fully effects the character-driven narrative of Dating Amber. Amber has already wholly accepted who she is, but Eddie is in complete denial, which is not helped by the pressure he feels because of his father to join the army and of course demonstrate all of the supposedly ‘manly’ characteristics that entails. This allows the film to also touch on the whole stereotypical thought process that men are still expected by society to refrain from showing any emotions, though that is also of course gradually improving.
This of course leads to inevitable friction between Amber and Eddie, and what then ensues is a very emotional and engaging character journey for Eddie. He often resorts to desperate tactics to try to repress his natural feelings, and it is actually at times heart breaking to watch as the main reason for him having to resort to this is because of society. Though drama inevitably takes precedence over comedy and the narrative does resort to the occasional genre cliché, it all is all delicately observed by Freyne’s script that skilfully captures the melancholy and bittersweet nature of life, and is ultimately very touching as we cannot help but care about these characters. The performances by the entire cast are great and this only further enhances how much we care about the well-developed characters, and the very intelligently observed nature of the film produces an unforgettable finale that will render long in the memory.
A film that manages to balance very well observational and relatable humour and drama; Dating Amber is a surprisingly engaging and memorable film that will touch the heart strings of all viewers.
At time of writing Dating Amber is available to stream on Amazon Prime