With the cinemas finally reopening I was pleased to see some films that were released on streaming during lockdown are getting the big screen treatment after all. Dating Amber is an Irish movie that got a bit of press when it was released on Amazon a few months ago but really deserved more so I’m happy to review it during its cinema release.
Eddie is a gay secondary school student in 1990’s Ireland. He seems to be one of the last people to know this. As he discovers his own sexuality his class mates are way ahead of him. Every day in his school he suffers teasing and namecalling as well being grilled "have you shifted a girl yet?". To try to stop the relentless bullying he is approached by Amber. She is also gay and suggests they become each others beards for the remaining time in school. Pretending to be in a relationship will stop the bullying and also Eddie’s macho father off his back.
The opening scene we see Eddie listening to Pulp on his headphones. In an Ireland where you were either Blur or Oasis, he was Pulp (the correct choice by the way ). Not quite my generation but I do remember how important music taste was pre Spotify, it was part of your personality. There was an element of snobbery but it was mostly a way to express yourself before social media and the internet.
Amber is also a social outcast for reasons other than her sexuality, she’s a 90’s punk, dreams of writing for a zine and living in Camden. Together they build a genuine connection and friendship that is really quite charming to watch develop.
I was unsure for the first 30 mins but by the end I was heavily invested in Amber and Eddie. This is primarily down to the two leads. Confident performances and funny from both. Fionn O’Shea who plays Eddie has a real face for inner strife. One scene in a gay bar in Dublin what he manages to do quite a lot without saying will break your heart. Hard to believe he played the near psychopathic Jamie in Normal People a few months ago. Lola Pettigrew plays Amber. Amber is a lot more confident in her sexuality from the start so is able to have a bit more fun with her character.
They are helped by a really great supporting cast, Sharon Horgan and Barry Ward do a lot with little screen time. It would be easy to make the parents the comic relief but they have genuine development throughout the film. This will be compared to Handsome Devil, the other Irish gay teen movie from a few years ago (also staring Fionn O’Neal ). I think this is probably a better film. It is on in the Palas this week and well worth your time.