Dir. Alex Barrett, UK, 2012, 102 mins.
Cast: Paul Nicholls, Jack Gordon, Nathaniel Martello-White, Jayne Wisener, Fiona Ryan, Will de Meo
Review by Jonathon Hopper
Selected for the Best British Feature Film category at the 2012 Edinburgh Film Festival, Life Just Is follows the trials and tribulations of a tight-knit group of friends as they wave goodbye to their carefree student days and try to face up (or not…) to the harsh realities of the world of work.
The film wastes no time in setting out its premise ; the characters spend the opening scene deriding a soppy romantic drama that’s just finished on TV for being too neat, too tidy, not true to the reality where life just sort of is. It’s a premise that the film takes right to the final frame as the friends laugh, cry and endure moments of existential revelation and doubt, as all the while the minutiae of everyday life are getting in the way.
In the wrong hands such material could be celluloid noodle-core of shoe-gazing proportions, but happily first time writer-director Alex Barrett keeps a grip on proceedings, meaning that what could be sloppy and pretentious is tight and gripping instead.
The restricted timeframe certainly helps with this (all the action takes place in a six day period from Halloween to Guy Fawkes’ Night), allowing the film to develop a claustrophobic environment in which every chance encounter brings potentially world-changing implications, as each of the main protagonists are plunged into their own personal dramas. Mixing the profound with the mundane, Life Just Is possesses an ease and a lightness of touch that keeps it fresh and original.
On the DVD you get an audio commentary offering a funny and genuinely interesting insight into low budget film-making, a well made Behind the Scenes featurette of interviews with the film’s stars (including former EastEnder Paul Nicholls) and another featurette of sound outtakes as cast and crew battle manfully to make themselves heard against a background of planes, flushing toilets and a noisy fridge.
As far removed from the latest Hollywood blockbuster as it’s possible to be whilst remaining in the realms of narrative cinema, Life Just Is is a funny, touching and honest study of life in all its messy, complicated and confounding glory.
Life Just Is has a small theatrical release on 07 December 2012 and comes out on DVD on 10 December 2012.