From the synopsis, Modern Life is Rubbish could be accused of rehashing High Fidelity, yet it more than justifies its existence. It’s a wonderfully evocative period drama of the past ten(ish) years, littered with uncannily detailed visual and aural references, including an expertly judged soundtrack. At worst, scenes resemble excerpts from music videos, with the flashback romance narrative leaning too heavily on rousing popular music to create emotion. Nat and Liam’s relationship is sketched rather than fleshed out, its trajectory suggested by a series of familiar shorthand moments. Yet unoriginality doesn’t belie effectiveness.
To call Modern Life is Rubbish unoriginal without qualification would be overstating the case. It has stylistic verve, for example in upsettingly abrupt cuts between timelines, which heighten emotional attachment to the couple’s story. If only this had been pushed further.
For millennials, aspects of Nat and Liam’s experiences will be all too familiar, so it only seems right that the cast features not one but two Skins alumni who will likely be recognisable to viewers of a certain age. While Merrick coasts by in an undemanding supporting role, Mavor easily anchors the film as the more sympathetic half of the central couple, though her face can be quite impassive. Modern Life is Rubbish packs an impressive amount in without feeling unfocused; an oddball music mogul recalls Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank, yet Gill’s film is far more tolerable.
Sadly, Gawthorne’s script stumbles at the last hurdle. Having embraced the complexities of a couple growing up together, he caps the film with a twee artificial ending which doesn’t deserve the sentiment it aims for. Twenty-something audiences who grew up with the same music as the protagonists are unlikely to be convinced; it feels shipped in from a run-of-the-mill Hollywood romcom, and Gawthorne and Gill can clearly do better.
CAST: Ian Hart, Freya Mavor, Tom Riley, Will Merrick
DIRECTOR: Daniel Jerome Gill
WRITER: Philip Gawthorne
SYNOPSIS: Brought together by their shared love of music, ten years on Liam and Natalie are at breaking-point. Making the difficult decision to separate, they must split their prized music library. But the soundtrack that defined their relationship keeps pulling them back together.[TRAILER FORTHCOMING]