Written and Directed by Oliver William Smith
Starring Sean Mitchell, Ella Blackburn, Elliot Bevan, Owen Carter, Katherine Harding
Indie Film Review by Chris Olson
Charming and technically impressive indie film Verve, written and directed by Oliver William Smith, is a very British coming-of-age story played out across the summer before leaving for university for a group of young people. As the leavers prepare themselves for the next chapter of their lives and await the looming A-Level results day, the intricacies of their characters start to emerge and reveal a selection of buried angst, uncertainty and emotions.
Think American Pie with less sordid anarchy but more awkward banter and nicer people.
At the heart of Verve is Sophie (Ella Blackburn) and love interest Jim (Sean Mitchell). The two enjoy the surges of a blossoming relationship in the post-exam era, whereby life ahead looks positively picturesque compared to the gruelling studies now behind them. However, the reality soon dawns on both of them that life is a continuous series of choices and consequences and the ones they are about to make are quite important. Along with them are numerous friends such as Carl aka "Carlos" (Elliot Bevan) and his romantic interest Gwen (Catherine Harding) who also enjoy a new, if slightly geekier, relationship. And then there is Pierre (Owen Carter), an insufferable rich kid skating by on money and bravado. The ensemble is a smorgasbord of upper-middle-class white kids.
In terms of plot and character, Verve offers very little in terms of originality. It smacks of a film studies project whereby the class decide to make a film about their own lives because it's the only shared experience they can think of. The themes are very plain and the journeys are predictable. Some of the performances were pretty wooden too, which didn't suggest they were bad actors but perhaps inexperienced. I did enjoy the offbeat timing of Elliot Bevan though. I want to get all of the nitpicking out of the way, because I want to get on to the more positive aspects of the filmmaking in Verve.
There are numerous sequences in the movie that are genuinely excellent. A one-take tracking shot through a cinema and out into the night streets with all the various characters in tow was a particular highlight for me. It felt as if the fluid camera movement was representing the transformative stage these characters were in and as they chaotically moved around each other and entered the frames at different times, a sense of collaborative experience was being expressed that is so specific to this age group. The welcome moments of comedy injected throughout the film are cheeky, there were some nice moments of creative dialogue involving double entendres that, had the delivery been a little less wooden from the actors, would have been brilliant.
Another fantastic aspect to the film was the soundtrack. Plenty of acoustic tracks are laid over montages and set pieces. This is most evident during one scene involving Jim, a river, and some origami which is well executed and had a lovely tone.
A stronger cast (or the same one with a bit more experience under their belts), a better script and more peril in the plot and Verve could have been a quintessentially British coming-of-age classic. As it stands though, the film still has daring filmmaking and a lot of heart which is more than most can say.
Watch the official Movie Trailer for Verve below...