SIMON Amstell is one of our finest talents. Annoyingly able to turn his hand to most forms of entertainment – you’ll probably remember him most for being brilliant on Never Mind The Buzzcocks or Popworld, but he’s also a fine stand up comedian, writer and director.
Benjamin is his second stab at movies (he made ‘Carnage’ an uncompromising and often shocking mockumentary about veganism a couple of years ago) and here decided to get proper meta.
Benjamin is a film director, who’s just released his second film and it hasn’t gone down well. We follow him on a journey of self-discovery as he realises the adoration and success he was looking for wouldn’t have helped anyway.
It shows and lampoons a London I recognise (the hip and fragile cinema crowd) and situations we’ve all been desperate to get out of. The boys he falls for, the toxic friendships, the lot.
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How much of this comes directly from Amstell’s journals isn’t clear, but the line between him and his characters must be pretty fuzzy. It has all the elements we’ve seen in his previous work (‘Grandma’s House’ in particular) – social awkwardness, acute observation and a healthy dose of utter cringe.
Colin Morgan glues the whole thing together with an empathetic performance that manages to stop it falling into chaos as it sometimes threatens. There’s a great supporting cast – Call The Midwife’s Jessica Raine is standout – as well as brace of cameos from the likes of Matt Lucas and Mark Kermode.
The sharpness of Simon Amstell’s writing (“I love the way you don’t chase success” is one absolute bullseye of a comment thrown at Benjamin) and his gentle approach to characters makes you forgive the occasionally ramshackle sub plots. I can’t wait to see what he has up his sleeve.