With its repetitive visuals of water and insistent voiceover, My Name is Emily at first threatens to be claustrophobic and indulgently contemplative. Yet it develops into a well-constructed road movie, and, like any good road trip, is fantastically soundtracked.
Though Evanna Lynch proves she has far more than Luna Lovegood in the tank, she’s upstaged by George Webster. Such is the suggestive subtlety of his performance that it’s a shame Fitzmaurice keeps his eye almost unerringly trained on Emily’s trajectory. Arden’s experiences, glimpsed only in Webster’s evocative expressions and reactions, remain tantalisingly undeveloped back story, and as a result the film is rendered almost as single-minded as Emily is accused of being.
While the acting is commendable, Fitzmaurice’s well-meaning screenplay struggles under the weight of its subject matter. Instead of embracing the potential for social commentary Fitzmaurice makes My Name is Emily into a charming yet anticlimactic adventure. Though Arden and Emily’s destination can’t be forgotten its importance diminishes, and, in a smart feat of misdirection, the journey and a new rather than existing relationship proves the more satisfying narrative arc.
A romantic coupling feels inevitable but thankfully isn’t overly sentimental. With modern technology replaced by vintage cameras, a characterful old car and inherited suits, this vision of Ireland seems a nostalgic semi-fantasy version of reality, perhaps sister to the England of Richard Curtis’ About Time. At the too-neat resolution this reaches new heights with a rather forced beachside happy ending that comes to resemble a Jack Wills catalogue spread.
What Fitzmaurice’s film lacks in originality or opinions it makes up for in heart. It doesn’t always land in terms of style or technique, but these imperfections are eclipsed as the actors portray a truthful emotional connection. My Name is Emily deserves a larger release than it’s likely to get.
CAST: Evanna Lynch, Michael Smiley, George Webster, Martin McCann, Cathy Belton
DIRECTOR: Simon Fitzmaurice
WRITER: Simon Fitzmaurice
SYNOPSIS: A teenage girl runs away from a foster home, aided by the boy who loves her, to search for her writer father who is in a psychiatric institution.