Bonus Track review – boy meets boy in sweet route-one romcom

Estimated read time 3 min read

Writer-director Julia Jackman is an award-winner for her short films and now makes her feature debut at the London film festival with this teen romcom, based on an idea co-authored by Josh O’Connor – who shows up in an amusing cameo playing a masked graffiti artist and part-time body piercer with a sub-Banksy reverence for his own anonymous glamour. It’s sweet-natured and engagingly laid-back, if a bit televisual and reliant on that time-honoured staple that dates from Richard Curtis’s Love Actually: the end-of-term school show in which a romantic declaration becomes an unscripted part of the programme.

The year is 2006 and, come to think of it, this is the second LFF movie set in 2006, after Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn; perhaps it will come to be the annus mirabilis for an emerging generation of film-makers who want to draw on their own past, and also find a year that just precedes the complicating world of social media – which might otherwise dominate a story like this.

George (Joe Anders) is a shy, unhappy kid, about to flunk his GCSEs and with feuding parents: Jeffrey (Jack Davenport) and Julia (Alison Sudol). His only passion is music, fantasising about being interviewed by Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs. But even here he is misunderstood by his pompous music teacher, Mr Zeppelin (Ray Panthaki), who gets testy when people ask if that’s spelt as in Led Zeppelin. Trying to be nice, his mum tells him that a career in music is perfectly possible, even without GCSEs – for people who have the right connections. That’s an insight that only plunges poor friendless and unconnected George further into gloom. But then the school is galvanised by its new student: supercool and handsome Max (Samuel Paul Small) who happens to be the son of a pop superstar in the news for just having got divorced.

For some reason that timid, unworldly George can’t quite make out, Max wants to be his mate, asking for tutorials in maths, a subject that George knows nothing about, but imagines that this mega-celebrity kid has mistaken his nerdiness for actual mathematical talent and might just help him with his music in return for this supposed academic assistance. Charming Max offers to come round to his house and get some geometry instruction in his bedroom and then give him some pointers on his latest composition. Max even suggests a double-date with two surly girls, and spends most of his time talking to gentle, innocent, open-hearted George who can hardly believe his luck in getting this glorious new friend, whose prestige instantaneously stops him from being bullied. And things develop from there.

It’s an entertaining and sympathetic movie, if a bit route one, and audiences might possibly feel that TV shows like Sex Education and Heartstopper go a bit further and with more contemporary nous. But nice performances from Anders and Small bolster this movie’s likability factor.


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