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Review: An Interesting Coterie of Characters Give 'Benjamin' Charm

by Roger Walker-Dack
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Jul 24, 2020

The award-winning gay Brit comedian/TV host/writer Simon Amstell's sophomore film, "Benjamin," is a totally charming rom-com that is based on him and his life. It's the story of Benjamin (Colin Morgan) an insecure nerdy up-and-coming filmmaker who has a tendency to totally overthink everything.

It's bad enough that he does it with his latest film, which is just about to be premiered at the Curzon in Soho, but even worse when he takes the same approach with a rare romantic encounter.

When he awkwardly meets Noah (Phénix Brossard), a young and talented musician from Paris who plays in a band and is studying at Guildhall, he has no idea on how to even date. Even when he gets Noah back to his apartment and the young Frenchman is obviously waiting to be kissed, a flustered Benjamin instead insists on showing a clip of his new film.

It's a testament to Amstell's excellent writing that the fact that these complete opposites authentically gel as a couple in this very entertaining story. Although Benjamin is painfully self-conscious and sometimes clueless, Noah at least is a sweet self-possessed man who has enough confidence for the two of them.

Regardless though even the two fall very genuinely for each other, when one of the partners is so full of self-doubt it obviously makes the path to happiness very tricky and annoying before it has any hope of succeeding.

What helps this work so well as the central core of the film is the fact that Amstell has surrounded them with an interesting coterie of characters. Tessa (Anna Chancellor) the producer of Benjamin's movie knows how to console him and let him think he's right without actually doing a thing. Plus Stephen (Joel Fry) his best friend and co-writer who is also possibly the unfunniest stand up comic ever, and then Jessica Raine has a really hilarious role as Billie the very insincere publicist.

Exactly how much of Amstell is in Benjamin is hard to establish but the talented Irish actor Colin Morgan playing the part manages to ensure that we look beyond the lack of his social (and gay) skills. Instead of not even being the slightest bit annoyed with his incessant deliberating and endless soul searching, it is impossible not to be in Benjamin's corner willing him to succeed even if he may not.

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Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.

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