This review was originally published as part of our London Film Festival coverage on 21/10/2018.
Benjamin is a bleak and hilarious glimpse straight into the mind of Simon Amstell. His insecurities and witticisms are laid bare in a searing indictment of London, the arts and (of course) himself. “JUST STOP TALKING!” you’ll scream at Benjamin, who might as well be called “Simon” for all the subtlety of this self-portrait.
Colin Morgan does a very good impression – and it is essentially an impression. Benjamin doesn’t shy away from being on the nose, including going as far as to include a wayward premiere of a film-within-a-film at LFF 2017. A followup cameo drives the nail in further – to say more would ruin one of Benjamin’s best gags. Some might be put off by this level of metatextual mush, but most won’t care. It’s too goddamn funny.
Morgan is joined by a who’s-who of British up-and-comers, each of whom clocks in briefly to satirise one artform or another. Jessica Raine steals the show as a particularly unbearable publicist, while Joel Fry carries the film’s heart as a comedian at the end of his rope. In a world of fakery and vanity, his sentiment and fraternal love for Benjamin cuts through what could be a shallow film inside and out.
Indeed, it’s admirable just how cheeky Amstell is with Benjamin as he takes self-obsessive artists to task via his own indulgent vanity project. Stones are thrown, pots are called black, cake is had and eaten – it’s all ridiculous and very, very funny.
Benjamin is a roaring success for Amstell; his keen eye for cringe is splattered over every frame and line of dialogue. If he’d pulled triple duty, it would have been too much – but Colin Morgan takes the film over the finish line with a sharp and sweet performance.
CAST: Colin Morgan, Anna Chancellor, Phénix Brossard, Joel Fry
DIRECTOR: Simon Amstell
WRITER: Simon Amstell
SYNOPSIS: In Simon Amstell’s affecting, bittersweet comedy, a rising young filmmaker is thrown into emotional turmoil by a burgeoning romance and the upcoming premiere of his second feature.