At first glance, Greta Bellamacina’s debut feature seems a London version of Frances Ha, as two women navigate their friendship and the odd jobs that keep their artistic aspirations afloat. However, Hurt By Paradise lacks Baumbach’s wit and pacing while raising the stakes of surviving in modern London. When viewers first meet Celeste (Bellamacina), she is trying to sell a navel-gazing poetry collection to a publisher – this rejection is far from the first. Meanwhile, her actress friend Stella (Sadie Brown) is itching for her big break. Through the moments of inspirations and daily mundanity, they have each other – and Celeste’s infant son, whose care they manage as they chase their dreams.

Hurt By Paradise grows more human and charming through the weight given to this recurring family theme. Celeste’s poetry is driven by her reckoning and potential reconnection with an absent father, for whom she scours the phonebook. No anger comes through her written or verbal assertions, but the question of what is not said adds depth to Celeste’s millennial sunniness and ambition. Meanwhile, one of the most gut-wrenching moments comes when Stella is faced with impossible childcare, a last-minute audition, and her falling marketability in the ageist acting world in one fell swoop.

The film is divided into themed chapters joined by transitions panning through Soho, Celeste’s poetry on voiceover. While tongue-in-cheek enough to not be insufferable, these narrative tricks are unnecessary. The film shines when it places full trust in its leads’ effervescent chemistry, and the BT Tower’s recurrence never finds significance.

Hurt by Paradise does not walk the line between earnestness and self-awareness so much as it jumps wholeheartedly into both, often in the same moments. The result may not make a lasting impression, but spending time with a soulmate friend feels as sweet and sincere as ever.



CAST: Greta Bellamacina, Sadie Brown, Camilla Rutherford, Anna Brewster

DIRECTORS: Greta Bellamacina, Sadie Brown

WRITERS: Greta Bellamacina, Sadie Brown

SYNOPSIS: Two best friends – one an aspiring poet, the other an actress – chase their dreams in an indifferent London.