The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Amazon Prime Video] - DATING AMBER | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Amazon Prime Video] - DATING AMBER

dating amber review
In 1990s Ireland, a pair of gay teens pose as a straight couple.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: David Freyne

Starring: Fionn O'Shea, Lola Pettigrew, Sharon Horgan, Barry Ward, Simone Kirby

dating amber poster

Only the most wretched, or forgetful, of adults would envy teenagers their lot. Don’t you remember how bleak it all was, the amount of pretending and posturing required to just get by? Being a different person for your parents, your friends, your teachers; all this while trying to figure out for yourself who you actually were. That tremulous longing for something (anything, anything at all) to happen, along with the craven fear that there was worse to come. Yeah, you remember. It’s just that, for a minute there, you didn’t want to. It was a grim time after all, and the youth these days have that social media too, which I would imagine only serves to amp things up to 11 (now there’s a ref for the kids). Fortunately for the teens in David Freyne’s hugely enjoyable Dating Amber - Eddie (Fionn O'Shea) and Amber (Lola Petticrew) - the film is at least set in the mid-Nineties, which means some awful music but at least no cyber bullying or Insta anxiety.

dating amber review

That’s about all in the positive column for this pair though: both kids are gay in the forbidding context of twentieth century Ireland, and school life provides its own bespoke misery. The film opens with real life news audio: AIDS, rejecting Jesus, a spurious equation of sodomy and bestiality (I almost spilled my Cosmo!). No wonder that Eddie is in self-denial, viewing a future in the army and joyless heteronormative compromise from his closet deep in the suburbs. Amber is a slightly different prospect: more obviously queer (in the strict codings of high school, that is), and completely ostracised by her especially dickish peers. When Eddie (Celtic Jamie Bell) nauses up getting off with a female classmate with an easy reputation (a regrettably sour note - we’ll come back to it), in the ensuing fall out, to save both their faces and make their school lives a bit easier, Amber suggests bearding each other. Comedy ensues!

dating amber review

Except, not really. For its first half an hour, Dating Amber is standard BBC3 youth comedy fare: brash, frothy and slightly irritating (Eddie’s Jay-from-the-Inbetweeners-esque mate is fingers down the blackboard). However, as the film continues it duly develops into something more serious and thoughtful, paralleling the emerging maturity of its protagonists. Except again, not quite. While Amber is comfortable in her skin, and sees the pairing as the convenience it is, a way of biding time until the money she has been dutifully saving can be put towards a rainbow coloured future in liberal metropolis London, Eddie wavers. Escaping to Dublin with its gay bars and discos (I loved the film for this; for illustrating the avenues for elusion, for showing the balance) encourages Eddie’s nature, but also allows him to recognise who he is, which is someone he would seemingly rather not be. A snog with a fit lad on the dancefloor leads to a punch up, and there are desperate entreaties to Amber to actually consummate the relationship - ooof!

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - To the Stars ]

Amber is having the time of her life though. She meets an insanely cute student who she falls in love with, and even takes her home to meet her mum: cue lovely scenes of her mother battling down her prejudices and fears to welcome the girl. Because, let’s face it, what parent in that world would choose this existence for their child: to face the bigotry, the hatred, the suspicion? It’s the same chez Eddie, where his mum, played by the amazing Sharon Horgan, suspects with sadness, and his dad overcompensates with mad Bear Grylls style bonding exercises. The sympathy and understanding which Freyne affords to these characters gives Dating Amber an authentic, emotional heft. Which is why it is such a niggle that characters such as Tracey (Emma Willis), the girl who Eddie clams up on at the start but ends up disingenuously seeing anyway, is given such short shrift and characterised in a rather mean spirited way. Because, although the situation is decidedly heightened for Eddie and Amber, most teens are undergoing their own private identity crises, or at least trying to fit in. For Tracey this seems to involve wanking off a clearly closeted homosexual, who cannot return her affections - it is no life for either party, yet Tracey is grievously portrayed as a fish wife in waiting.

dating amber review

Eddie’s actions throughout the film are cowardly when compared to the guts and grit of Amber, who pulls herself by the straps of her Doc Martens and confronts her mother, while Eddie still clings to an ephemeral idea of normalcy (catalysed by the unflattering portrayal of Tracey) while privately, compulsively sketching the sort of dicks which would make Herman Makkink proud. Recognising the egregious context he finds himself in, Dating Amber nonetheless has the insight to suggest that a more pertinent dilemma is Eddie’s own self loathing. The film offers no easy resolutions, but it does offer hope, and the hard truth that being who you are takes courage.

Dating Amber is on Amazon Prime Video from June 4th.

2020 movie reviews