If Richard Curtis were to remake Katt Shea’s 1992 erotic thriller POISON IVY as a frothy comedy-drama, it might look a little like Niall MacCormick’s patchy debut feature film ALBATROSS. Both films revolve around sexually confident but emotionally vulnerable teenagers who befriend girls of a similar age, seduce the girls’ fathers and ostracise the girls’ mothers from family life.
However, whereas Shea’s film was full of cheap B-movie thrills, sex, psychosis and bloodshed, ALBATROSS focuses on sentimental coming-of-age shenanigans, mild-mannered middle-class farce and seaside postcard innuendo.
This approach to the material would be fine if the jokes were funny or the sentiment felt earned, but ALBATROSS fails to convince the viewer that its characters are anything more than stereotypes fulfilling a formulaic narrative and repeating tired gags recycled from better films.
An unconvincing subplot involving Arthur Conan Doyle doesn’t help to alleviate the sense that the film is too contrived for its own good and the explicit on-screen references to the ‘albatross’ of the title are heavy-handed and clumsy.
That said, there are some fine performances, particularly from Felicity Jones as the awkward, brittle Beth and Jessica Brown-Findlay, who shines as the vivacious Emelia in a star-making turn that elevates many of the film’s weaker scenes.
MacCormick has done interesting work before (see 2010’s TV short THE SONG OF LUNCH) and there is enough here to suggest he will do interesting work again. Unfortunately, ALBATROSS feels destined to join the long list of mildly entertaining but ultimately disappointing British comedies.