Well-balanced coming-of-age comedy starring Downtown Abbey's Jessica Brown Findlay
This British coming-of-age comedy drama from debut director Niall MacCormick retreads familiar ground with its story but, thanks to a very funny script and a combustible lead performance from newcomer Jessica Brown Findlay, it’s never dull. Findlay, previously seen in TV’s Downton Abbey, radiates firecracker charm and attitude as Emelia, a seemingly untethered 17-year-old with a fiercely independent spirit who shakes up the lives of the Fischer family when she starts working at the seaside hotel they own and live in.
While Emelia’s carefree attitude provokes studious oldest daughter Beth (Felicity Jones) to explore life beyond textbooks and infuriates Beth’s frustrated former actress mother (Julia Ormond), it’s the lone man of the family, Beth’s father and one-time successful novelist Jonathan (Sebastian Koch), who is most affected by Emelia’s arrival. Emelia wants writing lessons, giving Jonathan a welcome distraction from his stalled work, but their tutoring sessions soon develop into a secret affair. It’s potentially unsavoury material, but MacCormick balances the tone well, playing up the comedy while sustaining well-drawn characters and building to a conclusion that refreshingly suggests a new beginning is always possible, no matter the circumstance.