Modern Life Is Rubbish (2 stars)

Modern Life Is Rubbish

EIFF 2017: Daniel Gill's debut is a derivative rom-com starring Josh Whitehouse and Freya Mavor

The British rom-com has been pronounced dead so regularly since the heyday of Working Title / Richard Curtis that a revival has been on the cards for a while. Alas, despite committed work by the two leading performers, Modern Life Is Rubbish suffers from the same design faults as similar entries in the cycle: a lack of rom, a complete dearth of com, and a hopelessly derivative script which does nothing but recycle scenes from better films.

Josh Whitehouse plays Liam, a frustrated rock musician who seemingly loves all music, from the Beatles to Motörhead and everything in-between. Unfortunately, he is strictly a fan-boy, and his efforts to form a band go nowhere. That failure puts pressure on his relationship with girlfriend Natalie (Freya Mavor), who has been forced to get a job to keep their dream of domestic bliss afloat.

Modern Life Is Rubbish takes its title from Blur's second album, but it's the band's greatest hits that Natalie is buying when she meets Liam; he tries to win her over with a monologue about how no real music lover would buy a greatest hits album. Given that she could easily be buying the album as a gift, Liam's muso-aggressiveness makes little sense, and Philip Gawthorne's script portrays him as a self-regarding idiot throughout. Natalie, meanwhile, has no character at all other than she's a bit arty, dislikes baked beans and has a job; she's simply an object for Liam to win or lose when he's finished wrestling with his demons.

Whitehouse and Mavor do have a certain charm, but when Gawthorne lifts scenes virtually wholesale from such decades-old sources as Jerry Maguire, it's hard to care about their relationship. Ian Hart has some vague fun as an eccentric music impresario, but director Daniel Gill's debut offers nothing but incessant needle-drops instead of drama; modern life may be rubbish, but there's no need for modern romances to be so utterly naff.

Screened on Thu 22 and Sun 25 Jun as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2017. General release TBC.

Modern Life is Rubbish

  • 2 stars
  • 2017
  • UK
  • 1h 45min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Daniel Gill
  • Cast: Josh Whitehouse, Ian Hart, Freya Mavor, Tom Riley

Liam (Whitehouse) is a frustrated rock musician whose failed efforts to form a band take their toll on girlfriend Natalie (Mavor). The stars have a certain charm, but for a rom-com there’s little rom, zero com and a hopelessly derivative script about a self-regarding idiot and his cipher of a love interest.

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