The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - PHILOPHOBIA | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema] - PHILOPHOBIA

philophobia review
A wannabe teenage writer develops an infatuation with a seemingly unattainable neighbour.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Guy Davies

Starring: Joshua Glenister, Harry Lloyd, James Faulkner, Alexander Lincoln, Kim Spearman, Jack Gouldbourne, Grace Englert

philophobia poster

At last! A film which explores the cultural repression of white middle class boys! In particular those sensitive souls who hanker to leave their despotic leafy suburbia of large houses, supportive parents and committed teachers in order to become a writer (you can only become a writer in certain parts of the country, I guess?). Here, finally, is a film which unflinchingly outlines the social injustices which these shrinking violets have thus far suffered covertly, like ‘the bigger boys’ and the stubborn inconvenience of the attractive girl across the street not automatically falling at their feet. What part of ‘become a writer’ don’t you understand, love?! Wanting to be a writer at 17 confers a higher virtue upon the aspirant; it makes one thoughtful and important. Yet, instead, this flighty chick prefers the company of the local bully, with all of his alpha excitements of good looks, proper drugs and conversation that doesn’t revolve around how much of a callous struggle existence is for a teen Keats wannabe. IT IS NOT FAIR.

Perhaps I began hating Philophobia in the opening sequences when our beleaguered teen hero Kai (Joshua Glenister) dims the lights in his bedroom in order to better spy on his pulchritudinous neighbour Grace (Kim Spearman). This is supposed to connote unrequited romance, but, to anyone who is mentally and emotionally stable, such an action is deeply unpleasant and creepy, a scene from a horror film, in fact.

philophobia review

Philophobia’s scant central narrative conflict simply consists of a boy wanting to put one on the girl he fancies (Philophobia is two hours long). Accordingly, the film’s attitude towards female beauty is as repugnant as its protagonist’s furtive actions: there is the clear sense throughout Philophobia's plot that Grace - of whom we never get a sense of character except when she randomly cries a few times (women, eh?) - is a prize for Kai and her bully boyfriend. Furthermore, she is a reward because she is fit, not because she is funny or kind. She could have been, I suppose, but since the longest scenes Grace has is when we see her shagging her fella (Kai spies on them through a crack in the door - ffs Kai) and later being fingered by Kai - romance! - in a school store cupboard, we’ll never know.

The film seems more comfortable positioning Grace at a remove, like through a bedroom window, and propagates that curious idea some people have about beauty: that being the owner of it makes you somehow public property, a yardstick to measure unrelated hopes and aspirations against, someone to envy (I write this as someone whose youthful glamour is finally beginning to sail, and, let me tell you, the relief is something else). This is a film which treats the quotidian trials and errors of being a teen (a very specific type of teen, mind: the film was filmed in the same affluent Home Counties area where the writers/director grew up) as the stuff of high, involving drama. It’s as if The Inbetweeners, with its peerless bathos, had never happened.

We do, conversely, spend a lot of time with Kai. Not that he is particularly funny or kind either, or even, in fact, interesting. We are meant to root for him because he carries around a dictionary in his pocket and underlines new words everyday - it is deep. Kai wants the world to ‘see him as he wills it’, which is as bald an assertion of entitlement and privilege as you can get.

philophobia review

What else happens in Philophobia? For a film which is two hours long, not a great deal. We hang out with Kai and his dull AF mates. Nothing makes sense: despite Kai having a right old whine about how High Wycombe is too small for one whose ambitions are so big and that success at stressful A-Levels are vital to his escape, he still gets stoned before an exam (?). We are supposed to think that Kai’s mates are a great bunch of lads, notably when one carelessly throws a physics textbook off the roof of a tall building into the busy street below and brains a passer-by. This is the type of infantile humour which Philophobia deals in.

Insidiously, Kai’s peers are clumsily represented as a social class lower than him too, as if this makes him more worthy. One helps out on a milk round, the other is just really Welsh; the nationality used here as a shorthand for stupid, crude and cretinous. I’ve spent a few minutes just now looking into the actor who plays this cartoon remedial, with his exaggerated lilt and would-be humorous bluntness, to try to uncover whether he is Welsh or not. A positive i.d. would perhaps mitigate the absolute racism of the portrayal, but the best I can find is that the actor is ‘skilled with accents and dialects’ which doesn’t bode well, really.

philophobia review

Some more stuff happens. One of the kids drowns to death, but, in a tension free few minutes, he is immediately brought back to life via hasty CPR. After helping her with English revision because he is so clever, and she is not (it did amuse me how the film unwittingly rips off plot beats from Grease 2), Kai gets his end away with Grace (Happy now? No, of course you’re not. Your kind never are), and she wakes up the next morning looking like a Charlotte Tilbury model: her makeup game fully on point despite spending a night on the sauce. There is another girl who seems to have wandered in from a (better) different story and is played by Grace Englert, who gives a charming and meaningful performance, but then sort of disappears.

Even the name of the film is nonsensical: no one seems afraid of love here, instead everyone seems actively mired in the tawdriest of adolescent lusts. I mean, the definition is right there in your plot device dictionary, Kai! And then, towards the end of the film, just to fuck everyone off further, Kasabian is played on the soundtrack.

Philophobia is in UK cinemas from October 30th.

2020 movie reviews