I feel like I could write two conflicting reviews about this film and they’d both be accurate.
First of all, the storyline: Eve is a beautiful and desperate girl stuck inside her own mind. Locked up in a mental institution to deal with her anorexia, she turns to songwriting as a means of expression and escape. Leaving the institution through a window, she makes her way to a show by one of her favourite bands, where she meets James, a fellow aspiring musician who works in the local leisure centre. When he discovers Eve’s songwriting abilities, James enlists her help in teaching Cassie, another young vocalist with dreams of making music. Together the three embark on a journey of self-discovery and acceptance in one of those dreamy summers that can only happen when you’re a teenager.
The film is written and directed by Stuart Murdoch, lead singer of Belle & Sebastian, and much of the music is taken from their album of the same name. It’s a quirky, folky sound, reminiscent of Juno in its straightforward innocence.
It’s a promising storyline, and I was expecting something along the lines of Girl, Interrupted set to music. Instead I watched a twee hipster movie in which Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction‘s naive younger sister meets an awkward Napoleon Dynamite lookalike and they team up with Cassie from Skins, who plays Cassie from Skins. There are several horrendously cringeworthy moments, the foremost being the awful “Pretty Eve In The Tub” song, possibly the least subtle boy-wants-girl song ever written, and one that’ll stick in your head for days. Hannah Murray (Cassie), whilst being charming and sweet as always, does not have the kind of singing voice that you’ll want to listen to for any length of time, which means you’ll spend most of her scenes praying she doesn’t start singing; and if she does, praying she’ll stop.
Yet somehow it’s also wonderful. Artistically shot, with several poignant moments that’ll make you catch your breath and stare at the screen in silence, it does provide a beautiful look into teenage angst and the horrors that can spring from having dreams that keep being broken. Most of the songs are lovely, if a bit overblown in places, and the relationship between the three friends unfolds in a realistic and meaningful way throughout the film.
I took a friend with me to the screening, and his comment was that if he’d seen it as a teenager, he’d have loved it even more. I agree: I think if I’d watched this at age 15, I would have found it beautiful and spent my own summer covering all the songs. As it is, I watched it over a decade later, and so I see it through more critical eyes.
I don’t know how to rate this one or quite how to sum it up. It’s wonderful and terrible all at once, and the only way to form your own opinion about it is probably to go and see it, which I completely recommend. You certainly won’t feel like you’ve wasted a couple of hours, and you might even find a new favourite movie. Or you’ll hate it for being overly sweet and sentimental. Who knows?