The Movie Waffler New Release Review - SCARBOROUGH | The Movie Waffler

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New Release Review - SCARBOROUGH

scarborough film review
Two couples - comprising teachers and their pupils - check into a hotel for an illicit weekend.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Barnaby Southcombe

Starring: Jodhi May, Jordan Bolger, Edward Hogg, Jessica Barden

scarborough film poster


The hotels of the windswept Yorkshire seaside town of Scarborough have long played host to couples engaged in the sort of affairs they would prefer to keep secret. In Scarborough, writer/director Barnaby Southcombe's adaptation of Fiona Evans' play, we spend a weekend in the fictional hotel The Metropole (actually the town's Grand Hotel, a striking structure not unlike Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest) with two such couples. For the couples in question, their relationships aren't simply illicit - they're illegal.

Thirtysomething Liz (Jodhi May) checks into The Metropole, nervously requesting a twin bed while insisting she won't be joined by any guests, provoking some inappropriate puns from the sleazy hotel manager (Daniel York) about "getting lucky." Waiting for her elevator, Liz is joined by Daz (Jordan Bolger), a shifty teenager who keeps his eyes to the ground. Once the pair enter the elevator, away from prying eyes, it becomes clear the two are lovers. Liz, it turns out, is Daz's teacher.


scarborough film review

Immediately, we see the same charade play out at the same elevator with another couple. This time it's a man in his thirties, Aiden (Edward Hogg), and a teenage girl, Beth (Jessica Barden). And again, it's a teacher and his pupil.

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By UK law, Liz and Aiden aren't technically committing statutory rape with their young lovers, who are both 16, but they are in violation of the law regarding relations between teachers and students under the age of 18, and would both face prison time if their relationships were made public. This causes much tension between the teachers and their brash, immature partners, the latter seeing the whole thing as a bit of a laugh, failing to comprehend how the law, and indeed society, might view their coupling. While Liz and Aiden are a bundle of nerves, Daz and Beth actively court trouble, kissing their teachers in public and purposely making exaggerated love-making noises to attract the attention of the already suspicious hotel manager. "I own you now," is the joint statement made by both Daz and Beth to their older, ironically less worldly, lovers.


scarborough film review

Aside from the legal and ethical implications, the two couple's relationships are further complicated by the fact that Liz is married and Aiden was just about to pop the question to his girlfriend when Beth started flashing her fake eyelashes at him. Oh, and both Liz and Beth drop a shared biological bombshell.

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At one point, Liz adds up the total amount of time she's spent alone with Daz, and it amounts to no more than a couple of days. Both she and Aiden seem to have realised, now that they're spending time with their teenage Lolita and toy boy in the cold light of day, that they're in relationships that have little hope of succeeding. Both adults attempt to back out, much to the chagrin of their younger charges, who can't wrap their not quite formed skulls around their respective scenarios.


scarborough film review

Scarborough takes a non-judgemental approach to its subject, with neither Liz nor Aiden portrayed as cold manipulators who have taken advantage of Daz and Beth. If anything, the opposite appears to be the case, with Daz confessing that he pursued his teacher, and Beth blackmailing Aiden when she gets wind that he might be planning to ditch her. Southcombe's film allows you to watch it through your own moral lens. Personally, I was most struck by how tragic the nature of both relationships appeared. Both Aiden and Liz seem damaged in some deep way, and rather than villains, they simply come off as two pathetic people who have somehow gotten themselves into a situation that looks like the most stressful scenario you could find yourself in. Aside from the fear of legal and societal reprisals, the idea of taking a teenage lover just looks like too much work - who would voluntarily want to hang out with teenagers, especially two as annoying as Daz and Beth?

Scarborough is structured in an elliptical fashion that initially appears straightforward, but we gradually realise that we're not simply watching two unconnected couples sharing a weekend in the same hotel. Liz and Daz are clearly in our current timeline, with Daz glued to his smartphone whenever he's not banging his teacher, but the presence of turn of the century cellphones, along with the absence of the hotel manager's grey hair, tells us that Aiden and Beth's stay occurred several years prior. For the first few introductory scenes, both couples mimic one another's actions and dialogue - an affectation that is thankfully dropped before it begins to prove irritating - an early clue that there may be more than meets the eye here. Ultimately, Scarborough reveals itself as a tale of someone trapped in a cycle of bad choices, doomed to inflict their own mistakes on others.

Scarborough is in UK cinemas September 6th.


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