Albatross tells of seventeen-year old Emelia Conan-Doyle (Jessica Brown-Findlay), as she turns up at The Cliff House B&B to start her job as resident cleaner. Decked out in a studded leather jacket, kohl eyes and glittering pink heels, she shakes up the household with her witty remarks and racy outfits, enchanting both the owner’s daughter Beth (Felicity Jones), as well as her struggling writer father Jonathan (Sebastian Koch,), with whom she starts a risky Lolita-esque affair.
Whilst clichéd, Albatross is the perfect example of a coming-of-age film, highlighting beautifully the fine line between childhood and adult life. Emelia’s character bursts into The Cliff House with such confidence, you almost feel a sense of annoyance towards her ‘don’t-take-shit-from-no-one’ attitude. However, as soon as we are shown Emelia’s home life with her two elderly grandparents, you begin to see cracks beneath her bolshy façade.
Chopping between nail-biting scenes of illicit embraces with Jonathan in his attic study to hilarious scenes, such as Jonathan’s youngest daughter, Posie’s P Party, where Emelia arrives dressed as a rather scantily clad Princess Leia, Albatross strikes a good balance between tragedy and comedy; moments of heartbreaking sadness are contrasted with wild parties, Oxford interviews and hilarious one-liners from nine-year old Posie.
If life experiences are what shape your maturity age, then Emelia is one-hundred years old. Her initial front as a rude, rebellious teenager slowly melts into an intelligent, mature adult.
After it premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival in June, Albatross was released nationally, following a string of positive reviews. The brilliant screenplay written by a new writer, Tamzin Rafn, is based on her own experiences as a teenager and urge to break free from the confines of her English seaside hometown.
With beautiful scenes shot on the Isle of Man and a soundtrack you want to download immediately, Albatross mixes humour, clandestine affairs, broken homes, and parties at Oxford University with long shots of sun-drenched seascapes, to create one of the best films to hit Dundee’s screens in a long time. Brown-Findlay's portrayal of Emelia is a startling contrast to her prim Edwardian character in Downton Abbey – and a real breath of fresh air to the usual star-studded British comedies.
If you want to feel just that tiny bit inspired after seeing a film, then Albatross is the one for you. Yes, it has its discrepancies and the plot itself is nothing new, but its not without a certain degree of charm.
Watch this if… quirky tragi-comedies, such as Juno and (500) Days of Summer, appeal.
Avoid if… you are one 'girl-turned-woman' tale short of an overload.
Albatross (2011). Directed by Niall MacCormick, 90 minutes. Showing at the Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre until Thursday 27th October. For film times, click here.