Niall McCormick’s new British film attempts to breathe new life into well-worn thematic material. Telling the story of a free-spirited young girl named Emelia Conan-Doyle (Jessica Brown-Findlay) with pretensions of emulating the Sherlock Holmes author, and the chaos she spreads in a stuffy seaside hotel populated by a blocked novelist (Sebastian Koch) his put-upon wife (Julia Ormond), and their two daughters. Befriending the eldest daughter, Emelia begins to worm her way into their family life before calmly seducing the sexually-frustrated Jonathan, an act which eventually forces all involved to confront some uncomfortable truths. The Albatross of the title alludes both to the shadow cast over Jonathan’s career by the success of his first novel, and also to the burden of the Conan-Doyle name on the shoulders of young Emelia as she attempts to forge her own identity. Slowly, characters come to important realisations about themselves and their ambitions in life as Albatross begins to labour under the weight of its own tedious predictability…

 Albatross’  British seaside setting and the youthful presence of Emelia evoke comparisons with Wish You Were Here, the 1987 BAFTA winning Brit-hit with Emily Lloyd. Unfortunately, Emelia has none of the naive charm of that film’s central character. Your enjoyment of Albatross hinges almost entirely on whether or not you can stomach Emelia’s antics. The film-makers would like you to see her as a free-spirited, wise-cracking minx; but more often than not she comes across as self-absorbed, deluded and irritatingly smug. Her plummy tones and literary pretensions don’t set her far enough apart from the individuals at the receiving end of her feeble sarcasm, and much of her tired hell-raising lacks a humourous spark. The film’s fatal drawback is its chronic lack of originality, this material has all been covered before, and better, in previous indie efforts. Cliché after cliché mount up, and Albatross runs well out of steam long before its predictable climax. Overall then, a dull and derivative waste of a fine cast and some picturesque locations.

Martin Cusack

Albatross is in cinemas 14th October 2011. 


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