High school can be hell, and it’s even more true when you have to hide who you really are. But new friends Amber and Eddie have found a way to circumvent the bullying with a hot romance. The only problem? They’re not really in love and their farce may blow up, leaving things even more fractured than before…
Set in Ireland in the nineties, Dating Amber follows closeted teens Amber (Lola Petticrew) and Eddie (Fionn O’Shea) as they navigate the scariest place of all – the hallways of high school. Both are relentlessly bullied for being gay; Amber deals with it by being tough and abrasively funny, while Eddie fumbles and fades into himself, hoping not to be seen. (Both tactics are achingly familiar, as we’ve all employed a meld of bravado and invisibility to get through adolescence.) One day, tired of the endless taunts, Amber proposes a fake relationship to Eddie. After all, if they can team up it will silence the voices, at least until graduation!
This is director David Freyne’s third feature, and his first foray into romance. And the project is close to his heart – not only did he shoot it in his hometown of Kildare (County Kildare, Ireland), it’s also his most autobiographical storyline to date as well. The loving treatment of the subject matter is clear, and it’s a thrill to see LGBTQ characters as the leads instead of shuttled off to the side. (The inescapable comparisons to Love, Simon are correct – this is another sweet, funny, painful, and resilient story that will have you rooting for everyone involved.)
Freyne says in this interview that, “I don't know if I would have tackled it as honestly or easily a decade ago, but it was just such a joyous and cathartic experience. I think a part of that is hindsight. Time has healed some of the wounds and given me the perspective to see the comedy and warmth that did exist amidst all the anxiety and pain.” This shines through and gives it its extra oomph, with Lola Petticrew and Fionn O’Shea expertly embodying their characters.
The movie is also written by Freyne and there are some serious zingers, especially coming from firecracker Amber. The dialogue is the perfect blend, striking the right balance between hilarious and believable. The storyline follows traditional rom-com plot points and it does sag a bit when the two have their inevitable falling out. But it’s worth the lull to watch as Amber and Eddie realize their paths in surprising and special ways.
Sweet, funny, and thoughtful. You’ll be glad you know Amber and Eddie, and grateful that they finally know themselves.
Nuggets – more film thoughts:
* One of my favorite things is the ongoing argument on the playground: Who’s better - Oasis or Blur? It’s a small, delightful detail that’s a perfect nod to the time. (By the way, it’s Blur; obviously!)
* It’s a bonus that Amber is an unabashed feminist who rails against the patriarchy, while giving a shout-out to Bikini Kill. Flawless.
* Another gem: Amber’s goal is to “own an anarchist bookstore, with franchise potential.” The levels of humor in this are sublime. Consider me sent!
* Kudos to the casting director. Not only are the leads perfect, the supporting cast is spot on as well. I look forward to seeing more of everyone in the future!